If you’re in the market for a new running watch and you’re trying to choose between the Garmin Forerunner 955 vs. the Garmin Fenix 7, we’ve put the two popular high-spec running watches face to face here. There some of the best Garmin watches on the market, but also two of the most expensive. So if you’re trying to decide between the two, read on to find out more.
The first thing worth noting is that these two running watches are awfully similar. They’re both jam-packed with features that’ll get you around your fastest marathon, or your first ultra. That said, if you’re into rock climbing or taking part in an extreme sport, the Garmin Fenix 7 has a stainless steel or titanium bezel and backplate, making it tougher and better designed for dealing with drops and knocks.
The Garmin Forerunner 955, by contrast, is made from a thick plastic, which means it's lighter for wearing 24/7 and having on your wrist on race day. It's also slightly more affordable than the Fenix 7.
Below, we look at the similarities and differences between the two watches. Still unsure about which Garmin watch to choose? Check out the Garmin Fenix 6 vs Garmin Fenix 7 face-off, or the Garmin Epix 2 vs Garmin Fenix 7 round-up.
Garmin Forerunner 955 vs Garmin Fenix 7: Price and availability
The Garmin Forerunner 955 is the newer of the two watches, released in June 2022. The watch comes in two different versions: solar and non-solar. As its name suggests, the solar version of the watch has a Power Glass screen, which harnesses the power of the Sun to increase the watch’s battery life.
Aside from this, the two Forerunner 955 versions are identical. The Forerunner 955 costs $499/£479 and is available in black and white. The Forerunner 955 Solar costs $599/£549 and also comes in black and white.
The Garmin Fenix 7 was released in January 2022, and as always with the Fenix 7 line, there are a number of different watches on offer.
Firstly, there are three different case sizes — the Fenix 7S is designed for smaller wrists and is 42mm, the Fenix 7 is 47mm, and the Fenix 7X is 51mm.
The next choice is the different editions. The standard edition of the watch has a stainless steel bezel and a reinforced glass screen and is built for tough adventures. The solar edition has the same bezel but has a power glass screen that extends the battery life of the watch, as it can charge from the sunlight. Finally, the sapphire solar edition Fenix 7 watches have a titanium bezel (which is stronger than the stainless steel bezels), as well as a power sapphire lens that also extends that watch’s battery life by charging from the sun while also being tougher than the glass lenses used in the other watches.
The price of the watch depends on the size and edition you choose, and there are a number of different colored bezels to choose from. The Garmin Fenix 7 range starts at $699/£599 for the most basic version and goes up to $999/£1049 for the Fenix 7X Sapphire Solar edition.
Winner: Garmin Forerunner 955 — If you’re after a more affordable watch, you’re getting a lot of Garmin’s top features with the Forerunner 955 for $200 less.
Garmin Forerunner 955 vs Garmin Fenix 7: Design and display
Both the Garmin Forerunner 955 and the Garmin Fenix 7 include a touchscreen, which allows you to swipe through and tap options like you would on any of the best smartwatches. On both running watches, the touchscreen is automatically disabled in workout modes, so you’re not at risk of accidentally pausing or lapping your watch mid-run.
The touchscreen does provide a more premium feel, but both watches still have the same five buttons — three on the left, two on the right. If you’d rather ignore the touchscreen and navigate around the watch using just the buttons, you can.
As for displays, both the Forerunner 955 and the Garmin Fenix 7 have a 64-color screen, which is by no means as bright as the AMOLED displays on the Garmin Epix or Venu series. But it’s still super-easy to see, even in direct sunlight. That said, the Sapphire Solar glass on the Fenix 7 did seem slightly duller indoors than the Power Glass used on the Forerunner 955.
There are some key differences between the two watches, though, which come down to the size and weight of each watch. With the Garmin Forerunner 955, you don’t get a lot of choices when it comes to the size of the screen — both the solar and the non-solar version have a 46.5mm screen, which is pretty hefty on petite wrists.
By contrast, the Fenix 7S has a 42mm face, and the Fenix 7 has a 47mm face. If you do love a large running watch, the Fenix 7X has a whopping 51mm watch face.
Yet, despite the slightly bigger face compared to the Fenix 7S, the Forerunner 955 is definitely the lighter of the two watches, weighing in at 52g for the non-solar version, and 53g for the solar. The standard Fenix 7S weighs 62g, whereas the Fenix 7X with the Sapphire Solar bezel weighs in at 89g. A difference of 10 grams doesn’t sound like a lot, but the Forerunner 955 immediately feels lighter on the wrist.
Winner: Garmin Fenix 7 — This is a tough one to call, but from a design point of view, you get more customization options on the Fenix 7 when it comes to the size of the watch and the material of the screen and bezel.
Garmin Forerunner 955 vs Garmin Fenix 7: Battery life
If you’re looking at these two watches, there’s a high probability that battery life is important to you. Let’s break down the data:
|Header Cell - Column 0
|Forerunner 955 Solar
|Fenix 7 standard
|Fenix 7 solar
|GPS-only without music
|All systems and multi-band GPS and music
|Up to 8.5 hours
|Up to 8.5 hours
|Up to 10 hours
|Up to 10 hours
|All systems and multi-band GPS
|Up to 40 hours
|Up to 80 hours
As you can see, the Garmin Fenix 7 has a slight edge when it comes to battery life, although you won’t be needing to charge either watch every night. Garmin says the Forerunner 955 Solar can last 20 days of use between charges, based on a sunlight reading of three hours a day. (In reality, most people would get more than this, so this number is likely to be longer.) On the Fenix 7, this number is 22 days in the same conditions.
Winner: Garmin Fenix 7 — As we said, the Garmin Fenix 7 enjoys the slight edge, though, really, both watches are even matched in this category.
Garmin Forerunner 955 vs Garmin Fenix 7: Fitness tracking and features
The Forerunner 955 and the Fenix 7 are both top-of-the-range watches when it comes to fitness tracking, although as the slightly newer model, the Forerunner 955 has some features that we’re still waiting to see Garmin roll out on the Fenix 7. At the time of writing, there’s no word on when this will be, but it’s likely Garmin will add them to a future software update.
The features currently available on the Forerunner 955 are HRV status and Garmin’s new Training Readiness feature. HRV records your hart rate variability overnight, giving you more accurate sleep data. Training Readiness 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. It’s a handy feature and, during testing, we found it accurately reflected how we were feeling.
The final feature that’s available on the Forerunner 955, but missing from the Fenix 7 is the Race Calendar, where you can put in the dates of different races on the Garmin Connect app. The Race Calendar widget on the watch then gives you a countdown and weather reports for the day, as well as suggested workouts based on your race diary.
Both watches can track more sports than you’d ever need: Run, Map, Track Run, Treadmill, Bike, Bike Indoor, Pool Swim, Open Water Swim, Triathlon, Multisport (custom), Virtual Run, Indoor Track, Trail Run, Ultra Run, MTB, eMTB, Cyclocross, Gravel Bike, Bike Commute, Bike Tour, Road Bike, eBike, Hike, Climb, Golf, Swimrun, Ski, Snowboard, Backcountry Ski, XC Classic Ski, XC Skate Ski, Snowshoe, SUP, Kayak, Row, Row Indoor, Tennis, Pickleball, Padel, Walk, Yoga, Pilates, Breathwork, Strength, Climb Indoor, Bouldering, Cardio, HIIT, Floor Climb, Elliptical, Stair Stepper. Got all that?
All of these sports modes can be fully customized, both on the watch, and in the Garmin Connect app — a handy feature Garmin rolled out with the Fenix 7. From your phone, you can configure just about anything on the watch, from data screens to menus.
Winner: Garmin Forerunner 955 — As things stand, the extras like the Training Readiness score edge the Forerunner ahead of the Fenix 7 slightly. That’s not to say the Fenix 7 won’t get these in a future update, however, making them on par.
Garmin Forerunner 955 vs Garmin Fenix 7: Smartwatch features
Again, things are pretty much neck and neck when it comes to smartwatch features. As well as Garmin Pay and the ability to store music and podcasts on the watch, both watches have smartphone notifications, although you can’t reply to any messages from your wrist.
Both use Garmin’s Elevate v4 heart rate hardware, have a barometric altimeter, a temperature gauge, and Multi-band GPS, and Pulse Ox for SpO2 blood oxygen readings. You can download offline maps onto both watches, and both have 32GB of storage.
Both support music streaming, and you can connect your Bluetooth headphones to both, which allows you to leave your phone at home when you head out for a run. There’s also the option to download apps to both watches by connecting to the Connect IQ App Store, although there aren’t an awful lot of apps available.
Winner: Draw — This one is impossible to call, as, from a smartwatch perspective, they are pretty identical. Both have the option to swap the silicone strap for metal, or leather wristbands to make the watch slightly less sporty for 24/7 wear.
Garmin Forerunner 955 vs Garmin Fenix 7: Verdict
Whether you choose the Garmin Forerunner 955 of the Garmin Fenix 7, you’re getting a fantastic watch, designed to cope with most active adventures. The real decision comes down to whether you’re bothered about weight, and if you like the more sporty look of the Forerunner 955. The cheaper watch has all of the features of the Fenix 7 in a much cheaper package, so unless you’re planning on rock climbing or doing really extreme sports or you’re after a metal bezel, I’m not sure why you’d opt for anything else on your wrist.
That said, if you do like the more premium look of the Fenix 7, you have more options to customize the watch. The gold and silver titanium bezels look beautiful, and elevate the watch from a sports watch, to something you could wear to the office, or on a date. As mentioned above, it’s likely the Fenix 7 will have all of the new features available on the Forerunner 955 soon.
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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.