The Garmin Forerunner series of running watches, tested
It’s no secret that Garmin can make a quality wearable. The brand has managed to give athletes watch faces for trail running, surfing and (of course) daily jogging over the years, with the Forerunner series having been a standout stable for some time. We were over the moon with praise for the 955 model, for example, which brought solar charging capabilities, durable construction and a wealth of data metrics to our daily workouts that extended beyond neighborhood sidewalks. .
Of course, however, in today’s technology landscape, if you don’t innovate, you die, hence the release of the updated Forerunner 265 and 965 profiles. Boasting touchscreen capabilities and all-new AMOLED displays, these iterations are the latest pinnacle of the family. But are these updates a step in the right direction for Garmin, especially given the successes of yesteryear?
To determine the impact of these latest running watches on the landscape, I donned and trained with the Forerunner 265 and 965 for several weeks, analyzing and participating in a variety of activities to gather a full range of offerings from each silhouette. . I compared and contrasted the feel of each bezel and band, both against each other as well as their previous iterations. Naturally, I also wore these clothes outside of training to see how well they translated to everyday life. After all, what good is your data if it is only used for a few hours a day?
If you’re looking for one of the latest profiles from Garmin’s lineup, here’s what you can expect.
Garmin Forerunner running watch series: what we think
While I loved the solar capabilities of the Forerunner 955, there’s still too much to praise in this updated lineup. Both the Forerunner 265 and 965 performed exceptionally well in testing, with the 965 becoming my favorite for daily training and the 265 being my go-to for race-specific endeavors. The build quality is impeccable. The precision is there on several measures. The new display is bright and readable in all conditions.
In all honesty, the only deciding factor that really separates the two is case size – 46.1mm in the 265 or 47.2mm in the 965. Other than that (okay, that and a little other differences), you can’t go wrong with either profile for a sporty outfit.
Both the Forerunner 265 and 965 offer excellent data tracking capabilities.
It’s no surprise that both silhouettes in this updated Forerunner line have more than enough power to keep up with all your necessary data across multiple disciplines. I found no hiccups or inaccuracies in my running, strength training, rowing, and golfing modalities during these trials, which led to more informed and composed workouts. Additionally, the Forerunner 265 and 965 also offer Garmin’s Morning Report feature, which helped me identify factors affecting my sleep and training readiness for the day.
All of these functions and data tracking capabilities are greatly enhanced by the quick toggle buttons on the silhouettes, as well as the touchscreen functionality. Getting into charts and training modalities is a snap, and there’s no real searching or browsing if you take the time to configure your library to your liking.
Despite differing constructions, both Forerunners are very durable for training.
Okay, so aside from case size, the Forerunner 265 and 965 also differ in terms of bezel material. The cheaper 265 profile uses fiber-reinforced polymer for its frame, while the 965 uses sleek and durable titanium. Despite this difference and the preconception that titanium is the most durable material of choice, I had no issues with either design. After all, both silhouettes use Corning Gorilla Glass 3 for the lens, which helps create a tough face that can take plenty of abuse on the road and in the gym. Whether bumped over the edge of a squat rack or groped on the floor after a shower, the profiles held together, which can help alleviate fears of treating these tech-heavy accessories with a delicate touch.
I wouldn’t say these are the most durable watches I’ve ever had on my wrist, but the fact that there’s little separation between the two lends itself to the quality improvement in the Forerunner family. In previous years I’ve definitely noticed a bridge between the profiles in terms of wrist feel – it’s nice to see Garmin offering such comparable durability in two of its flagship watch faces.
AMOLED screens are an improvement over previous iterations.
The biggest update to the 265 and 965 models is the addition of AMOLED displays. While this is an increased benefit in both stables due to improved visibility and brightness, even under clear sunny skies, there are some downsides to incorporating it. For one, the brighter screen may tend to drain the battery faster, which slightly reduces the battery life of each respective silhouette compared to previous iterations. While not a major concern during testing, I found myself loading the new profiles more often than the previous silhouettes.
Additionally, the inclusion of an AMOLED display on the Forerunner 965 eliminates the possibility of solar charging, which (if you couldn’t tell by now) was a standout in previous iterations. This new tech brings touchscreen capabilities to the 200-level model, so I guess that’s a fair trade-off…if you ask me the right day.
There’s still a lack of smartwatch functionality on the 265 and 965.
While I definitely admire the tech built into each silhouette and appreciate each profile’s speedy connectivity with my smartphone, it’s worth noting that these are still not replacements for your standalone smartwatches. Yes, you can still get the same notifications you get on your phone, but there’s no way to interact with them.
For some, like me, I appreciate the pager-like aesthetic, but I understand that’s a limitation compared to other mobile-ready devices. Ultimately, if you’re looking for a running-focused watch that can do it all training and smartphone-wise, it’s hard to go against the industry leaders.
Garmin Forerunner running watch series: alternatives
Not quite sold on the latest Forerunner models? Below are some worthy silhouettes that I’ve found to be worthy contenders to Garmin’s latest offerings:
In terms of running watches, I would say your next best option would be the Apex Pro 2 Profile from Coros. This watch easily trumps the Forerunner lineup in terms of battery life, but the modalities and toggles aren’t as seamless or intuitive.
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If you’re looking for smartwatch capabilities in addition to training capabilities, you can also opt for the Apple Watch Ultra. While packed with robust features designed for training, you have to remember that all of those phone-like notifications and conveniences will require cellular charging, unlike the Forerunners.
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