Nine months after the release of the Garmin Forerunner 955, Garmin has updated its premium running watch and has given it a facelift. The Garmin Forerunner 965 has a bright, beautiful 1.4-inch AMOLED touchscreen, and a new titanium bezel to give it a premium feel both on and off the run.
Display Size: 1.4 inches
Resolution: 454 x 454
Water resistance: 5 ATM
GPS battery life: 31 hours
Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, ANT+
Yet apart from that, not much else has changed. Sure, there are some slightly new (and pretty useful) training metrics, and the watch still has a decent battery life compared to its competitors (cough, Apple Watch Ultra), but this isn’t reinventing the running watch wheel. Is the brighter screen enough to make this watch worth the upgrade? Read my full Garmin Forerunner 965 hands-on review to find out more.
Garmin Forerunner 965 review: Price and availability
The Garmin Forerunner 965 was released in March 2023, and costs $599/£599. While the Forerunner 955 came in a solar and non-solar version, there’s only one version of the 965 available.
When it was released in June 2022, the Forerunner 955 cost $499/£479 and the Forerunner 955 Solar cost $599/£549. This means the Forerunner 965 is $100 more expensive than the non-solar version of the Forerunner 955. If you’re looking for a bargain, and you’re not bothered about the brighter screen, now is a good time to invest in the Forerunner 955, which is likely to be on sale now the newer watch has been released.
The Forerunner 965 is available from Garmin directly, as well as from third-party retailers. The watch comes in a gray titanium and a titanium bezel. The gray 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.
Garmin Forerunner 965 review: Design and display
With the screen turned off, the Forerunner 965 looks pretty identical to the Forerunner 955, aside from the slightly different bezel. Both watches can be controlled using five buttons ( three on the left, two on the right) and a touchscreen. That said, the Forerunner 965 is ever so slightly bigger — 47.2mm/1.4 inches, compared to 46.5mm/1.3 inches on the Forerunner 955.
Like the newly released Forerunner 265, which also got the upgraded AMOLED screen, Garmin has made the start/stop button slightly bigger on the top right — handy if you struggle to remember which button to press to pause your run at a stop light.
When you turn the watch on, however, it’s a different story. The Forerunner 965 has a much brighter screen than the Forerunner 955; the latter has a 64-color MIP display with a resolution of 260 x 260 pixels. By contrast, the Forerunner 965 has an AMOLED display with a resolution of 454 x 545 pixels, the same as that seen in the Epix 2, Venu 2 and Forerunner 265. Why does AMOLED matter? It makes the screen super-bright, and easy to see, even in direct sunlight.
Similar to its predecessor, the Forerunner 965 has a 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. You can also customize the display or upload an image to use as your watch face, should you wish.
Garmin Forerunner 965 review: Battery life
One area where Garmin excels compared to other sports watches on the market is its battery life. Despite its brighter screen, the battery life of the Forerunner 965 is pretty similar to that of the Forerunner 955. I’ve put all the key stats in a table below:
|Header Cell - Column 0||Forerunner 955||Forerunner 955 Solar||Forerunner 965|
|Smartwatch mode||15 days||20 days||23 days|
|GPS-only without music||42 hours||49 hours||31 hours|
|Multi-band GPS without music||20 hours||22 hours||19 hours|
|GPS-only with music||10.5 hours||10.5 hours||8.5 hours|
|Multi-band GPS with music||20 hours||22 hours||19 hours|
As you can see, despite the higher resolution and the bigger screen, the battery life on the Forerunner 965 still holds its own. There are a few caveats, however, one being the option for the always-on display on the Forerunner 965. When this is turned on, Garmin reckons the battery life in smartwatch mode drops from 23 days to 7 days. Still, it’s a hell of a lot longer than the likes of the Apple Watch Ultra, but worth noting if you are taking the watch on a multi-day adventure without a charger.
I’ve had the Forerunner 965 on my wrist for a week, and haven’t needed to recharge yet. During that time I’ve recorded at least one activity of at least an hour per day, and worn the watch 24/7.
One other thing to note from a battery perspective is that Garmin has switched to a USB-C charging cable. It still has the same four-pronged charging port, however, so older cables will still work.
Garmin Forerunner 965 review: Health features
From a health perspective, the Forerunner 965 has all of the same features as the Forerunner 955, and they are still just as good. I’d argue the average runner isn’t likely to use 90% of the sports modes on the Forerunner 965, so why would you buy this over, say, the Forerunner 55? To put it simply, because of the battery life, and the additional health features packed into this watch.
The watch has Garmin’s Morning Report, which gives you a summary each morning of how well you slept, how well you’ve recovered, and how hard you trained the day before, as well as extra information like the day’s weather. The report can be fully customized and can give good luck messages in the run-up to a race, as well as hiding negative Readiness data (because who sleeps well the night before a race?). I still wish I was able to add my menstrual tracking data to the morning report, as I track my periods in the Garmin Connect app, and would appreciate seeing that data at a glance each morning.
There’s also the Health Snapshot feature, which is a two-minute measurement that looks at your heart rate, blood oxygen level, respiration rate, stress, and heart rate variability (HRV). Plus Garmin's Training Readiness metric — this shows you at a glance how ready you are for a workout 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.
Garmin has also added a new feature, which will be soon rolled out to the Fenix 7 and Forerunner 955 — Chronic Training Load. Where the Acute Load feature measures a short-term sum of your training, Chronic Load focuses on a longer period of 28 days. The information is displayed in a simple gauge — if your Acute and Chronic loads are matched, your number will be 1.0. Anywhere between 0.8 and 1.5 is in the ‘green’ zone.
Like the Forerunner 265, Fenix 7, Epix 2, and Forerunner 955, the Forerunner 965 has Garmin’s Elevate V4 sensor — the green light records heart rate, and 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.
Garmin Forerunner 965 review: Fitness features
Like the Forerunner 955, the Forerunner 965 has more sports modes than you could ever need. In fact, you’ll probably ignore most of them, but it’s reassuring to know that should you ever take up snowshoeing or bouldering, your watch could track it.
Here’s a full list of the sports modes available on the Forerunner 965: 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.
All of these sports modes can be fully customized, both on the watch and in the Garmin Connect app. In fact, one area where I found the touchscreen to be really useful was clicking and changing data screens on the watch.
Talking of the Garmin Connect app, it wouldn’t be a Garmin review without me highlighting how it truly is the best in the business. It’s intuitive and gives you a hell of a lot of data for free. Here’s how to use the Garmin Connect app.
On the run, the GPS was extremely fast to connect — I tested this watch alongside the Fenix 7 and Apple Watch Ultra, and all had very similar GPS graphs when I looked at them side by side. Eagle-eyed Garmin fans will spot that Garmin has also changed the GPS-loading screen.
From a mapping perspective, the Forerunner 965 has 32 GB of storage, and comes pre-loaded with the maps for your particular region. Other maps can easily be downloaded. When using the watch for navigation, the AMOLED screen does help to see things more clearly, and I imagine it would be excellent on a mountain run or skiing session.
Garmin Forerunner 965 review: Smartwatch features
Of course, you don’t want to spend $600 on a watch to only wear it on the run, and why should you, when a lot of Garmin’s best training metrics require you to keep it on your wrist 24/7? The AMOLED screen of the Forerunner 965 does elevate it from a smartwatch perspective — it’s bright, it looks cool, and the touchscreen allows you to scroll around the watch with ease.
You can also view your smartphone notifications from the watch, although if you’re on iOS, you still can’t respond to them. You can also use Garmin Pay to pay for transactions on the move, and download songs from Spotify, Deezer, and Amazon Music, which lets you leave your phone at home on a run, or in your locker at the gym.
That said, compared to the likes of the Apple Watch Series 8 or the Apple Watch Ultra, the Forerunner 965 is still lacking from a smartwatch perspective. The former are like wearing an iPhone on your wrist, whereas downloading Garmin’s apps still feels a little clunky. However, I’d say this is a smartwatch vs sports watch debate, and that most people buying a Forerunner 965 won’t care about checking their social media notifications mid-training session.
Garmin Forerunner 965 review: Verdict
There’s no doubt about it, the Forerunner 965 is a beautiful running watch, jam-packed with tools that’ll help you get a better understanding of your training and recovery. The screen is fantastic and elevates the watch from a smartwatch perspective, but also on the go — viewing maps on the Forerunner 965 is a much crisper, clearer experience.
However, not a lot has changed other than the screen, and if I had a Fenix 7 or a Forerunner 955 on my wrist, I’m not sure Garmin has done enough to convince me to upgrade just yet. Sure, the screen is spectacular, but where’s the call functionality available on the Garmin Venu 2, or the flashlight of the Fenix 7X?
If you’re looking for a more affordable option and don’t care about advanced mapping, the Forerunner 265 also has an AMOLED screen and a bunch of brilliant training features, including Garmin’s Training Readiness Score.