Garmin Forerunner 265 vs Garmin Forerunner 965: Which Garmin is best for you?

Garmin recently released two new watches, the Garmin Forerunner 265 and the Garmin Forerunner 965. Both have bright, beautiful AMOLED screens and are jam-packed with features to help you get a better understanding of your body, and how well it’s coping with your training load. But what are the main differences between the two new watches, and which should you buy? 

To find out more, we’ve put Garmin’s newest Forerunners head to head, comparing the differences in battery life, health and fitness tracking, and advanced training metrics on board. If you’re looking for longer reviews of both, check out our Garmin Forerunner 965 review here, and our Garmin Forerunner 265 review here. 

The Garmin Forerunner 965 replaced the Garmin Forerunner 955 as Garmin’s top-tier Forerunner watch, we’ve compared the Forerunner 955 vs Forerunner 965 here. The Forerunner 265 replaced the Forerunner 255 as Garmin’s mid-tier Forerunner (again, check out the Forerunner 255 vs Forerunner 265 face-off here). If you’re a complete beginner looking for a cheaper, entry-level watch, the Garmin Forerunner 55 is our best value pick.

Garmin Forerunner 265 vs Garmin Forerunner 965: Price and availability

The Garmin Forerunner 265 was released on March 2, 2023. The Forerunner 265 costs $449/£429 and comes in two versions, the Forerunner 265, which has a 1.3-inch display, and the Forerunner 265S, which has a 1.1-inch display.

The Garmin Forerunner 965 was released in March 2023, and costs $599/£599. The watch comes in a grey titanium and a titanium bezel. The grey titanium watch comes with a black or yellow strap, the titanium bezel comes with a white strap. All cost the same, and, like with most of the best Garmin watches, the straps are interchangeable. 

Winner: Garmin Forerunner 265 — The Forerunner 265 is more than $100 cheaper than the larger Forerunner 965, so is the better choice if you’re on a budget. If you’re looking to save, now is also a good time to invest in the Forerunner 955 or the Forerunner 255, both of which are likely to be on sale now the newer watches have been released.

Garmin Forerunner 265 vs Garmin Forerunner 965: Specs at a glance 

Here’s a snapshot of the two watches side by side: 

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Garmin Forerunner 265 vs Forerunner 965
Header Cell - Column 0 Forerunner 265SForerunner 265Forerunner 965
Screen size1.1 inches1.3 inches1.4 inches
Resolution360 x 360 pixels416 x 416 pixels454 x 454 pixels
Case size41.7 x 41.7 x 12.9 mm46.1 x 46.1 x 12.9 mm47.2 x 47.2 x 13.2 mm
GPS battery life24 hours20 hours31 hours
Smartwatch battery life15 days13 days23 days
Memory 8GB8GB32GB
Garmin PayYesYesYes

Garmin Forerunner 265 vs Garmin Forerunner 965: Design and display 

Both the Garmin Forerunner 265 and the Garmin Forerunner 965 have classic Garmin designs, with a round screen and five buttons that allow you to navigate around the watch — three on the left, and two on the right. Both also have a larger start/stop button, which makes it easier to pause your run with sweaty fingers. 

a photo of the pace chart on the Forerunner 265

(Image credit: Future/Tom's Guide)

The two watches also both have AMOLED displays — the same as that used on the Garmin Epix 2 and the Garmin Venu 2. The AMOLED screen is extremely bright and easy to see in all weather conditions, including direct sunlight. The resolution of the Forerunner 265 is 416 x 416 pixels, and 360 x 360 on the 265S. When we compare this to the Forerunner 255, which has a color MIP display, the difference is huge — the 255 has a resolution of 260 x 260, and the 255S has a resolution of 218 x 218. 

heart rate chart on the Garmin Forerunner 965

(Image credit: Future)

The Forerunner 965 is slightly brighter, with a resolution of 454 x 454 pixels, however, it also has a larger screen of 1.4 inches, compared to the 1.1-inch screen of the Forerunner 265S, or the 1.3-inch screen of the Forerunner 265.

Both watches have a responsive touchscreen, although it’s automatically disabled during activities, and you can turn it off entirely and just use the watch’s buttons should you wish. 

The Forerunner 965 is slightly deeper as well as having a larger screen, measuring 13.2mm, compared to the 12.9mm Forerunner 265.

Winner: It’s a tie! Both watches are similar in design and it’s hard to pick between the two. They are both easy to use and customize, both from the watch itself and the excellent Garmin Connect app.

Garmin Forerunner 265 vs Garmin Forerunner 965: Battery life

When it comes to battery life, both Garmin watches will easily go a good few days between charges, and are far more impressive than the likes of the Apple Watch Series 8 or the Apple Watch Ultra. Out of the three, the Forerunner 965 has the best battery life, with 23 days in smartwatch mode, 31 hours in GPS mode without music, and up to 8.5 hours in GPS mode with music.  

a photo of a sleep graph on the Garmin Forerunner 965

(Image credit: Future)

That said, the Forerunner 265 range isn’t to be looked over — the 265S has a 15-day battery life in smartwatch mode, and a 24-hour battery life in GPS mode without music. The 265 has 13 days in smartwatch mode and 20 hours in GPS mode without music. Normally, it’s the larger of the two watches that has the longer battery life, but it seems with the bigger and brighter screen, the larger 265 will need charging ever so slightly sooner. 

Winner: Forerunner 965 — There’s not all that much in it, but if you’re looking for a watch you don’t have to worry about charging all that often, the longer battery life on the Forerunner 965 is the watch to go for. 

Garmin Forerunner 265 vs Garmin Forerunner 965: Health and fitness features 

Let’s start with the similarities: both watches have Garmin’s multisport mode, Morning Report, Body Battery, and Training Readiness Score. The score shows you at a glance how ready you are for a difficult day of training based on sleep, recovery time, HRV status, acute load, and stress. Each category carries a different weight, so your Training Readiness might go up during the day, as your needed recovery time goes down. Both also have Garmin’s race widget, daily suggested workouts, and LiveTrack and incident detection safety features. 

a photo of the recovery screen on the Forerunner 265

(Image credit: Future/Tom's Guide)

They both also track just about everything you could ever need from a sporting perspective — the list really is endless. Golf, however, is only available on the Forerunner 965. They also both have Garmin’s Elevate V4 sensor — the green light records heart rate, the red light records blood oxygen levels (referred to as Pulse Ox on the watch). This sensor is used to calculate breathing rate, HRV, and stress.

So why would you opt for the more expensive watch? The Forerunner 965 has full mapping capabilities, including topographical, road, and trail maps all preloaded onto the watch. The Forerunner 265 doesn’t have this — you can still import routes onto the watch, but it’s not quite the same, or as easy to use. 

a photo of the training load on the Garmin Forerunner 965

(Image credit: Future)

The Forerunner 965 also has some more advanced training features, such as Load Ratio, which shows you the relationship between your Chronic Load and Acute Load at a glance. There’s also real-time Stamina and ClimbPro on the 965.

Winner: Forerunner 965 — From a training perspective, the Forerunner 965 does have everything you could ever need. That said, if you’re not a golfer, or someone who ever uses maps on your watch, the Forerunner 265 still has most of Garmin’s advanced training features.

Garmin Forerunner 265 vs Garmin Forerunner 965: Smartwatch features 

Once again, this is a tough one to call as these two running watches are very similar from a smartwatch perspective. Both watches are designed to be worn 24/7 and have Garmin Pay. You also get smartphone notifications (although you cannot respond to iOS notifications from either watch), and the ability to listen to music from the watch, allowing you to leave your phone at home and head out for a run. 

Winner: It’s a tie — Both watches can comfortably be worn 24/7, and the bright touchscreens on both make them a pleasure to use. 

Garmin Forerunner 265 vs Garmin Forerunner 965: Verdict 

So which watch should you buy? The answer really depends on two things — how much you're willing to spend, and how much the top-tier training tools matter to you. If you’re on a budget, the Forerunner 265 is an excellent choice, with the same excellent design and display, for $100 cheaper. If you’re not, the larger screen of the Forerunner 965 might be the more appealing option. 

If you’re a golfer, a skier, or a trail runner hoping to disappear into the mountains, the Forerunner 965 is the better choice, as it has full mapping capabilities, and tools like Stamina and ClimbPro.

Either way, both are excellent running watches that have made it onto our best running watches list.

Jane McGuire
Fitness editor

Jane McGuire is Tom's Guide's Fitness editor, which means she looks after everything fitness related - from running gear to yoga mats. An avid runner, Jane has tested and reviewed fitness products for the past five years, so knows what to look for when finding a good running watch or a pair of shorts with pockets big enough for your smartphone. When she's not pounding the pavements, you'll find Jane striding round the Surrey Hills, taking far too many photos of her puppy. 

  • dobyblue
    One huge difference for me between the 2x5 and 9x5 series is the live segments and for runners that use Strava, and there are a lot of us, this feature is a must have. When you favourite a segment, being able to get live stats on how you're doing vs your PB or next person in your followers list is pretty huge. Need some extra motivation with 400m to go? How about "2s behind" - let's give it! Is it worth $100? Maybe not for everyone, but it's a feature Garmin don't seem to advertise with much visibility in their stats section and only with a detailed comparison was I able to figure it out ahead of time, search the feature to see what it meant, and decide easily on the 955. With so many routes and segments, it's vital in my training and running routine to have this function. Very peculiar of Garmin not to include it more, as I had it on my 735XT I just upgraded to the 955 from and almost made the mistake of picking up the 255.