Garmin Forerunner 965 vs Garmin Epix Pro: Which watch should you buy?

When it comes to choosing the best Garmin watch for you, there are plenty to choose from, and if you’re looking for a high-end running watch, Garmin recently made it even more complicated with the launch of the Garmin Epix Pro and the Garmin Fenix 7 Pro. Garmin’s latest watches have a built-in flashlight and Garmin’s newest heart rate sensor, but the Garmin Forerunner 965 is around $400 cheaper, and one of the best running watches we’ve ever tested. 

To help you decide which is best for you, we put the Garmin Forerunner 965 and the Garmin Epix Pro head-to-head, looking at the similarities and differences between the two watches. If you’d rather check out the full reviews before continuing, check out our Garmin Forerunner 965 review here, as well as our Garmin Epix Pro review

Garmin Forerunner 965 vs Garmin Epix Pro: Price and availability

The Garmin Forerunner 965 was released in March 2023, and costs $599/£599. The watch, which is made of titanium, comes in a grey or a silver finish. The grey model  comes with a black or yellow strap, and the silver version comes with a white strap. Both cost the same, and, like with most of the best Garmin watches, the straps are interchangeable. 

The Garmin Epix Pro is the newer of the two watches, released in May 2023. The series of watches come in different specs and sizes, with the cheapest Epix Pro watch starting at $899/£829. The highest-end model, with a sapphire-crystal lens and titanium case, will cost $1,099/£1099. The sapphire glass is much harder wearing, and therefore a more premium watch. Compared to the original Epix, the Epix Pro comes in three different screen sizes —  42mm, 47mm and 51mm, meaning there are more watches in the range to choose from. 

a photo of the Garmin Epix Pro on the wrist

(Image credit: Future/Tom's Guide)

Here’s a table explaining the different pricing options for the Garmin Epix Pro: 

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Garmin Epix vs Epix Pro pricing
Header Cell - Column 0 Epix Pro 42mmEpix Pro 47mmEpix Pro 51mm
Glass screen$899/£829$899/£829$999/£929
Sapphire screen$999/£929$999/£929$1099/£999

Winner: Garmin Forerunner 965 — If you’re on a budget, the Forerunner 965 is the watch to go for.

Garmin Forerunner 965 vs Garmin Epix Pro: Design and display 

Let’s start with the similarities — both watches follow Garmin’s classic design, with a round bezel and five buttons, three on the left, and two on the right. Both have a touchscreen display, which is automatically disabled in sports modes, making it easier to start, stop, pause, and lap your run with sweaty fingers, or when wearing gloves. 

Both also have bright, AMOLED displays that are easy to see, even in direct sunlight. The Forerunner 965 comes in one size, with a 1.4-inch screen. The AMOLED display has a resolution of 454 x 454 pixels. The Epix Pro comes in three different sizes — 42mm/1.6 inches, 47mm/1.8 inches, and 51 mm/2 inches. All watches in the range come in a standard and a sapphire version. The screen resolution is as follows — 390 x 390 pixels (42mm), 416 x 416 pixels (47mm), 454 x 454 pixels (51mm).

a photo of a sleep graph on the Garmin Forerunner 965

(Image credit: Future)

Another difference between the two is the materials used. The Forerunner 965 has a titanium bezel, but a plastic casing, making it a lot lighter, weighing in at 53g. The Epix Pro comes in two different versions — the standard version has a stainless steel bezel and a steel rear cover, the Sapphire version has a titanium bezel, and a steel rear cover, as well as a Sapphire Crystal lens. The Epix Pro weighs 63g (42mm), 78g (47mm), 98g (51mm) for the standard version, and 58g (42mm), 70g (47mm), and 88g (51mm) for the titanium version. 

The Garmin Epix Pro also has Garmin’s latest heart rate sensor which has twice as many LEDs as that of the Epix 2 spread over a wider area. According to Garmin, the "more spatially diverse" sensors and updated algorithms result in more accurate data. The Garmin Forerunner 965 has the older Elevate V4 heart rate sensor. 

a photo of the Garmin Epix Pro on the wrist

(Image credit: Future/Tom's Guide)

Finally, the Epix Pro has a flashlight built into the case of the watch. The flashlight can be used in situations where you might use your phone’s flashlight, but can also be used in certain sports modes, as the flashlight can blink or pulse on a bike ride. There is also a running-specific cadence visibility flashlight, where the watch will flash white as your wrist goes forward, and red as your arm moves back, in order to help keep you safe and seen.

Winner: Garmin Epix Pro — This one is really difficult to call, as for its price, the Forerunner 965 is lighter than the Epix Pro, with a screen that is just as bright. That said, the Epix Pro does have two newer features — the built-in flashlight, and Garmin’s newest heart rate sensor. 

Garmin Forerunner 965 vs Garmin Epix Pro: Battery life 

Despite being a lot more expensive, the battery life of the Epix Pro is comparable to that on the Forerunner 965. The 49mm Epix Pro lasts 16 days in smartwatch mode and 42 hours in GPS-only mode. The Forerunner 965 lasts 23 days in smartwatch mode and 31 hours in GPS-only mode. 

Here’s a table comparing the battery life of the Forerunner 965 and the various watches in the Garmin Epix Pro range: 

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Garmin Forerunner 965 vs Epix Pro Pro Battery life
Header Cell - Column 0 Forerunner 965Epix Pro 42mmEpix Pro 49mmEpix Pro 51mm
Smartwatch mode:23 days10 days16 days31 days
GPS mode:31 hours28 hours42 hours 81 hours

Winner: Garmin Forerunner 965 — Sure, the 51mm Epix Pro has the longest battery life out of all of the ones on test here, but for its price, the Forerunner 965 has a killer battery life. You could easily go for a weekend marathon abroad without worrying if you forgot your charger for both of these watches. Due to the AMOLED screens on both, you’re never going to get the same battery life as the likes of the Fenix 7 Pro

Garmin Forerunner 965 vs Garmin Epix Pro: Health and fitness tracking features

Both watches are pretty similar from a health and fitness tracking perspective. Both watches have Garmin’s Multi-band GPS, which is the brand’s most accurate, and both track a huge amount of sports profiles.

That said, if you’re into water sports or golf, the Epix Pro is the watch worth buying. The Forerunner 965 is water-resistant up to a depth of 50m, whereas the Epix Pro can go to a depth of 100m. The Epix Pro can track sports profiles like windsurfing, kiteboarding, water skiing, and sailing, whereas the Forerunner 965 cannot. The Epix Pro also has a training golf mode, whereas the Forerunner 965 does not.

a photo of the training load on the Garmin Forerunner 965

(Image credit: Future)

From a usability perspective, you can see a maximum of eight fields on the Garmin Epix Pro, whereas, on the Forerunner 965, you can only see a maximum of six. This is still a lot of data, but if you’re someone that likes to see all your stats in one place, this might be a consideration worth making. 

Finally, when it was launched, there were two new running features — hill score, which shows you how easy it is to run uphill, without the need to look at your phone or a map. Garmin does this by measuring your running strength on steep elevations, and endurance on long ascents, as well as progress over time, based on your VO2 max, and training history. 

a photo of the Garmin Epix Pro on the wrist

(Image credit: Future/Tom's Guide)

There’s also a new endurance score, which is a measure of how easy it is for you to sustain prolonged efforts (using data like VO2 max), and your short and long-term training loads. That said, these new training features will also be available on other premium watches, including the Forerunner 965, in a later firmware update. 

Winner: Garmin Epix Pro — Again this is a tough one to call, as the Forerunner 965 has all of Garmin’s premium training features, and can track a huge number of sports. That said, the Epix Pro does have additional watersport and golf profiles. 

Garmin Forerunner 965 vs Garmin Epix Pro: Smartwatch features 

The two watches are pretty much the same 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 965 vs Garmin Epix Pro: Verdict 

So, which watch should you buy? Personally, unless you’re planning on going bouldering or rock climbing, or taking up a water sport with your watch, I’d opt for the Forerunner 965. It has a lot of the same features as the more expensive Epix Pro, and it’s a lot cheaper. It’s also lighter and has an excellent battery life, and it’s highly likely features like Hill score and Endurance score will be rolled out to the Forerunner 965. 

On the other hand, if budget isn’t a problem, the Epix Pro has everything you could ever need. It’s made from harder-wearing materials, and you can buy the watch in different sizes to suit petite, or larger wrists. 

If you’re on a budget, the Forerunner 265 is an excellent choice, with the same excellent design and display as both the Forerunner 965 and the Epix Pro, for a  cheaper price. 

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.