I used the Garmin Forerunner 165 and Coros Pace 3 to see which is better

What's the difference between Garmin's and Coros' entry-level running watches? I tried them to find out

Garmin Forerunner 165 vs Coros Pace 3
(Image credit: Matt Kollat/T3)

Garmin surprised us with a lovely new smartwatch in the form of the Forerunner 165, which I'm sure will delight a lot of runners thanks to its many excellent qualities and low price point. However, there is another wearable vying for the attention of the same group of athletes: the well-received Coros' Pace 3, which has been on the market for around half a year or so. Which is better, though?

Looking at the Garmin Forerunner 165 review, it's clear the watch is more than capable of helping runners get better at their craft. Sporting an AMOLED screen, the latest Elevate sensing platform and quite a few health and fitness features, this beginner Forerunner model is one of the best running watches you can buy today.

The Coros Pace 3 offers a different user experience. This lightweight wearable offers a long battery life, access to Coros' training hub, and more. It looks eerily similar to its predecessor but has an Always-On Memory LCD touchscreen and an updated GPS unit.

The watches cost more or less the same and have their pros and cons, which makes it hard to decide which one to get. Lucky for you, I went the extra mile and used both simultaneously to see how they compare. You'll find my verdict at the bottom of this comparison article. Garmin Forerunner 165 vs Coros Pace 3: let the battle commence!

(Watches first compared Feb 2024)

Garmin Forerunner 165 vs Coros Pace 3

Price and availability

The Garmin Forerunner 165 Series was released on 21 February 2024 and is available now at Garmin US, Garmin UK and Garmin AU. It comes in two versions, Standard and Music, and retails for £245 and £290 respectively.

The Coros Pace 3 launched in five variants (White Nylon, White Silicone, Black Nylon, Black Silicone, and the PACE 3 Track Edition) in late August 2023 and is available to buy now directly from Coros US, Coros UK and Coros AU for a recommended retail price of $229/ £219/ AU$ 399.

Winner: Coros Pace 3. It's the cheaper wearable, and since it's been released earlier, you'll likely find better deals on it than the Forerunner 165, too.

Design and build quality

Garmin Forerunner 165 vs Coros Pace 3

(Image credit: Matt Kollat/T3)

The Garmin Forerunner 165 has a 1.2" touch-sensitive AMOLED screen with a resolution of 390 x 390 pixels. The screen is easy to read to is super bright. It's protected by chemically strengthened glass and embedded into a reinforced polymer case.

The Coros Pace 3 also has a 1.2" touchscreen display, but it isn't AMOLED. Instead, it's the always-on Memory LCD variety with a 240 x 240 pixels resolution, covered by a Mineral Glass lens.

Memory LCD screens are dimmer than AMOLEDs, even at full brightness, but as a result, they require less battery power to keep on. Like the Forerunner 165, the Pace 3 has a fibre-reinforced polymer case.

One interesting difference between the two watches is weight. Coros has always been keen on highlighting the lightness of the Pace series: the third iteration weighs only 30 grams without the strap, which is indeed very lightweight.

However, the Garmin Forerunner 165 weighs only 24 grams (without the strap), making it the lightest running watch on the market. That's quite a weight reduction – the Garmin watch is 20% lighter compared to the Coros Pace 3.

The Forerunner 165 has the standard Garmin button layout with five push buttons. It also adds touch functionality, and it works well, too. Interactions are smooth, but thanks to the many buttons, it's equally as easy to operate the watch with the buttons.

The Pace 3 has two physical buttons, a rotating crown that can also be pressed, and a push-button below. The operation isn't difficult to master, especially since the watch has only got so many functions. Touch sensitivity could be better and interactions smoother, but it's far from being frustrating.

Both watches come in one size, although the Garmin Forerunner 165 is available in two models, Standard and Music. The latter allows you to store music offline from Spotify, Deezer, etc., so you don't have to take your smartphone with you on your runs.

The Coros Pace 3 also has offline music capability, but it can only store MP3s

Winner: Garmin Forerunner 165. The watch is lighter, brighter, and performs tasks faster. 


Garmin Forerunner 165 vs Coros Pace 3

(Image credit: Matt Kollat/T3)

Both wearables have the minimum set of features we expect to see in any wearables these days, including all-day heart rate, sleep and steps. Since they both connect to smartphones, the watches can receive notifications, sync with calendars, and so on.

On top of this, the Garmin Forerunner 165 can track stress and blood oxygen levels and even notice if you had a nap during the day (which affects your sleep score, by the way).

The Garmin can estimate running power and provide advanced running suggestions, such as Training Effect, heart rate variability, race adaptive training plans, etc.

It's not quite as feature-rich as the Garmin Forerunner 265 and misses out on Training Readiness, Acute load/Load Focus, Training status, and the Triathlon activity profile.

In contrast, the Coros Pace 3 has somewhat limited functionality, and prioritises running training over general smartwatch functionality. This doesn't mean the watch is any worse than the Garmin; it's only different.

Luckily, you get tons of training and fitness features, including Running Fitness and Training Load estimations, Intensity Trends, Recovery Time suggestions, sleep tracking and more. You also get full access to the Coros Training Hub and EvoLab.

The Pace 3 misses out on ANT+ support, which isn't a huge loss. ANT+ is a Garmin technology and is often used for connecting wearables with stuff such as cycling computers and power meters, which isn't a huge thing for running watches anyway.

One a more positive note, the Coros Pace 3 added WiFi connectivity, which makes updates and smartwatch sync in general much faster. 

Winner: Garmin Forerunner 165. It has more health and fitness features than the Coros without missing out on the training features we expect from a competent running watch in this category.


Garmin Forerunner 165 vs Coros Pace 3

(Image credit: Matt Kollat/T3)

At this price point, it's hard to fault the accuracy of either the Garmin Forerunner 165 or the Coros Pace 3. Both track running workouts pretty well, have built-in GPS and can provide more than enough data to pore over after the workouts.

One key difference between the two is GPS performance. While the Garmin Forerunner 165 uses a single-band GPS, Coros opted for a dual-band GPS unit in the Pace 3.

The latter should enhance the wearable's capability to track position in challenging environments, such as dense urban environments and thick forested areas.

The Forerunner 165 should be okay to use in most cases, but it's definitely not as competent as the Pace 3 regarding satellite accuracy in those environments mentioned above.

Heart rate tracking is okay on both, although the Coros takes much longer to lock onto your heart rate before workouts. I never really understood how certain watches, like Garmins, can detect heart rate seemingly instantaneously when you start your workout, while others take much longer to perform the same task.

Surely, all performance wearables track heart rate all day, so real-time heart rate data should be more or less ready to go when I initiate the workout. Instead, the Pace 3 sometimes takes 20-30 seconds to detect heart rate – certainly longer how long it takes to lock on to the GPS signal.

Data collected by the watches are similar, although overall, the Forerunner 165 seems to provide slightly more accurate readings than the Coros when compared to running dynamics gathered via heart rate monitors like the Garmin HRM-Pro.

Winner: Tie. The Garmin's single-band GPS is a bit of a letdown, but the overall tracking capability seems better than the Coros.

Battery life

Garmin Forerunner 165 vs Coros Pace 3

(Image credit: Matt Kollat/T3)

As brilliant as they are in broad daylight and in general, AMOLED screens will always require more energy to power than more straightforward Memory LCD screens. Therefore, it's no surprise that the Coros Pace 3 has a better battery life than the Garmin Forerunner 165.

The Garmin Forerunner 165 can function for up to 11 days in smartwatch mode and up to 19 hours in GPS mode on a single charge. 

Conversely, the Coros Pace 3 has up to 24 days of battery life in smartwatch mode and up to 38 hours in GPS mode. The latter is while using Standard Full GPS mode (single-band GPS) when tracking outdoor workouts.

As you can tell, the Pace 3 can last twice as long as the Forerunner 165, which is no small feat. However, this comes at a sacrifice, with the screen being much dimmer than on the Garmin.

Many runners still prefer Memory in Pixel (MiP) displays over AMOLED, so this might not be a massive issue for them. That said, as time goes on and screen tech gets cheaper/more energy efficient, we'll likely see most MiPs phased out in favour of AMOLEDs.

Winner: Coros Pace 3. The battery life is over twice as long in both smartwatch and GPS modes than the Forerunner 165.


Looking at the specs and the performance of the two watches, it's impossible not to notice that the Garmin Forerunner 165 is a more well-rounded running watch than the Coros Pace 3.

Garmin not only has the benefit of sitting on user data from hundreds of thousands (millions?) of athletes worldwide, providing better estimations for all performance metrics, but it's also an extremely popular brand among sportspeople in general.

Only half a year younger than the Coros Pace 3, the Garmin Forerunner 165 feels very different from its competitor. The Forerunner 165 is an excellent representation of what the brand is all about, providing insane amounts of data (whether you want it or not) in a well-thought-out package.

That said, Coros went from strength to strength over the last few years, gathering what feels like a cult following among the more die-hard athletes. The Pace 3 is a superb smartwatch for those runners who couldn't care less about anything but running-related stats and want to focus on training and training only.

The price is similar, which might make it harder to decide between the two, but I'd argue that you're better off with the Forerunner 165, especially if you find a cheap Garmin deal on it.

Matt Kollat
Section Editor | Active

Matt Kollat is a journalist and content creator who works for T3.com and its magazine counterpart as an Active Editor. His areas of expertise include wearables, drones, fitness equipment, nutrition and outdoor gear. He joined T3 in 2019. His byline appears in several publications, including Techradar and Fit&Well, and more. Matt also collaborated with other content creators (e.g. Garage Gym Reviews) and judged many awards, such as the European Specialist Sports Nutrition Alliance's ESSNawards. When he isn't working out, running or cycling, you'll find him roaming the countryside and trying out new podcasting and content creation equipment.