Garmin Forerunner 965 review TL;DR: the Forerunner 965 offers a bright, more responsive AMOLED display, titanium bezel, and longer battery life than its so-so predecessor. Plus, all the health, fitness and smart features in the world, so you can train and recover more efficiently. An amazing wearable through and through.
I pride myself on being the best Garmin watch expert at T3; I reviewed countless wearables from the brand and am always keen on trying their latest watches, no matter what. However, I have been struggling lately, as Garmin seems to be on a mission to flood the market with wearables, making it almost impossible for testers such as myself to review all their stuff meaningfully.
Case in point, this Garmin Forerunner 965 review. Garmin used to wait at least a few years before releasing a new iteration of their watches. Yet, here we are, less than a year after the Garmin Forerunner 955 was released, the Forerunner 965 is almost already old news. Not old enough for me not to review the watch, of course!
And while I found the Forerunner 955 experience a little underwhelming – battery performance wasn't impressive, even with solar – I thoroughly enjoyed wearing, testing and reviewing the Forerunner 965, bar a couple of niggles which I'm sure will be ironed out soon. Should you get one, and is the Forerunner 965 one of the best running watches? Let's find out.
(First reviewed in May 2023)
Garmin Forerunner 965 review: price and availability
The Garmin Forerunner 965 was launched in March 2023 and is available to buy now directly from Garmin UK, Garmin US and Garmin AU for £600/$600/AU$999. As expected, at RRP, the Forerunner 965 is more expensive than the Forerunner 955 Solar, although not significantly (equivalent to around a 10% price bump).
The watch only comes in one size, and there are three colourways to choose from: Carbon Grey DLC Titanium Bezel with Black Case and Amp Yellow/Black Silicone Band, Carbon Grey DLC Titanium Bezel with Black Case and Black/Powder Grey Silicone Band and Titanium Bezel with Whitestone Case and Whitestone/Powder Grey Silicone Band.
Garmin Forerunner 965 review: what's new?
(For reference, I'll be comparing the Forerunner 965 with its most recent predecessor, the Forerunner 955 Solar.)
As reported earlier this year by my colleague Sam, the Forerunner 965 is the first Garmin running watch with an AMOLED screen. It was launched in tandem with the excellent Garmin Forerunner 265, which also features an AMOLED display. These aren't the first AMOLED Garmin watches, though; the Garmin Venu 2, Garmin Epix Gen 2, and Garmin MARQ Gen 2 all have AMOLED displays.
The display is not only brighter, but it's also bigger (more on this below). Another improvement is the titanium bezel; the Forerunner 955 Solar, just like the Garmin Forerunner 945 and many other Forerunners, has a fibre-reinforced polymer bezel. The Forerunner 965 is thinner and lighter than its predecessor, weighing only 52 grams.
Despite the energy-intense AMOLED panel, the Garmin Forerunner 965 has a much better battery life, even when you compare it to the Forerunner 955 Solar. The watch now has an ambient light sensor to adjust the light according to external light levels. From a features point of view, the Forerunner 965 is almost identical to the Forerunner 955 Solar.
Garmin Forerunner 965 review: design and build quality
Unlike the Forerunner 955, which looked very similar to Forerunner 945 and mainly updated the features and sensors, the Garmin Forerunner 965 looks significantly different from its predecessor. Of course, the main difference is the AMOLED display, but there are other changes to note once you have a good look at the watch.
The watch case of the Forerunner 965 measures 47.1 x 47.1 x 13.2 mm, which is over a millimetre thinner than the Forerunner 955. The case is slightly longer/wider, but considering the display size has gone up (from 1.3" to 1.4"), you can tell the bezel has actually shrunk since the last iteration. The bezel is now titanium instead of plastic.
The Forerunner 965 is a hair lighter than the Forerunner 955 (52g vs 53g, case only). It's Quickfit watch band compatible (22 mm). The Forerunner 965 uses the same 4-prong Garmin proprietary charger as all Garmin watches. However, the other end of the cable is now USB-C, not USB 2.0.
The AMOLED display has a resolution of 454 x 454 pixels (compare this to the Forerunner 955's 260 x 260 pixels) and is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass DX lens. It has an always-on mode, which I didn't turn on as I found the wrist-flicking accuracy of the watch spot-on – no need to drain the battery too much.
Garmin Forerunner 965 review: features
The Garmin Forerunner 965 is the top dog Forerunner and offers all the smart, health and fitness features you can imagine. This includes (but is not limited to) all-day heart rate, stress, steps and respiration tracking, heart rate variability and VO2 max estimations, dual-band multi-GNSS system access, offline maps, and sleep monitoring.
It also has a bunch of workout-specific features, such as training readiness estimations, suggested workouts based on workload and recovery, training status, recovery time suggestions, race predictor, and more. Truth be told, all of these features could be found on the Forerunner 955, which also uses the same sensors, so if you saw that watch in action, expect the same user experience but on a prettier screen.
Speaking of the screen, the Forerunner 965 has a touchscreen display and uses the same 'glance' view as its predecessor(s). It might just have been me being utterly oblivious to this before, but you can now group features in folders to make it easier to get a better view of your stats. Groups can have different icons (see above), and once you add features to a group, they are removed from the main glance view grid.
Of course, you can add/remove/move glances to your heart's content, so if you feel you have too many items on the list, you can get rid of them. You can also customise and access features on the watch via the Garmin Connect app by tapping on the watch icon at the top. Admittedly, organising menu items and changing the setting on your smartphone is less hassle than on the wearable's small screen.
Garmin Forerunner 965 review: workout performance
I used the Garmin Forerunner 965 for a bunch of different workouts, but considering it has over 30 built-in sports apps, including cycling, open-water swimming, and strength training, I can't say I tried them all. The watch also comes preloaded with HIIT, strength, cardio, yoga and Pilates workouts and has built-in profiles for triathlons, duathlons, brick workouts and swim runs.
The watch uses the same sensors as the Forerunner 955, so the accuracy of these is on par with that watch. If you have used Forerunners in the last few years, you know the watch's GPS and heart rate tracking accuracy is pretty good. To test it, I took the Forerunner 965 to the London Marathon, which was a bit of a mixed-bag experience.
GPS accuracy was good, and despite being in an environment where thousands of multisport watches tried to connect to satellites, the Forerunner 965 latched onto the GNSS signal pretty quickly. However, heart rate accuracy seemed way off when I started tracking the run, the Forerunner 965 telling me it was over 189 beats per minute.
I thought it'd calm down eventually, but after around two miles, I had a look at the watch, and it crashed and quit tracking the workout. I started tracking again, and it worked like a charm from then on. I'm sure it was just a glitch, and I'll keep testing the watch to see how the performance changes over time once Garmin rolls out a few software updates.
Garmin Forerunner 965 review: battery
I was genuinely impressed with the battery life of the Garmin Forerunner 965. I wasn't blown away by the Forerunner 955 Solar's battery performance and was slightly concerned about adding an AMOLED display to the mix, but I was proven wrong, and I couldn't be happier.
Despite the lack of solar charging and the big AMOLED panel, the battery of the Garmin Forerunner 965 can easily last for over two weeks in smartwatch mode (the official number is up to 23 days). GPS-only battery life is 31 hours, which is also excellent.
Interestingly, using SatIQ knocks this down to 22 hours, which I guess is due to this mode using other GNSS systems than just GPS. If you need maximum accuracy, the watch lasts for around 19 hours in All-Systems GNSS mode + Multi-Band mode. Listening to music on the wearable – you can download music from Spotify and connect Bluetooth running headphones directly to the Forerunner 965 – negatively affects the battery, and unless you're desperate, I'd recommend not abusing this feature too much.
Garmin Forerunner 965 review: verdict
The Garmin Forerunner 965 is everything I hoped the Forerunner 955 Solar would be and more. I've been harping on about AMOLED screens for years, ever since I tried the Venu 2, knowing full well Garmin could produce a wearable with such a display without sacrificing battery life, but it's only now that I've been given a watch that lives up to my sky-high expectations.
The watch uses the same sensors and has the same features as its predecessor, but it's lighter and thinner, which is ideal for a performance wearable professional athletes will use for training. The titanium bezel is a nice touch, as are the different colourways, allowing people to buy the best Forerunner in colours other than black.
The AMOLED display is bright and responsive, and the glance view is as good as it's always been. The UI colours are a bit garish for my taste – I prefer the saturated yet palatable interface of the Apple Watch Series 8 – but at this point, I accept it as a running watch thing. After all, you must ensure everyone knows you're wearing a performance wearable, not a smartwatch like a filthy casual!
If you need an accurate multisport watch and have enough disposable income to justify the price, the Garmin Forerunner 965 is a must-have. Thank you, Garmin, for rolling out such a significant hardware update soon after the Forerunner 955 Solar launch. I love it.
Garmin Forerunner 965 review: also consider
I mentioned tons of alternatives to the Garmin Forerunner 965 in this review, but if you need more, have a look at the two options below.
If you're looking for something less flashy, Polar's Pacer Pro might be a better option for you. It's an old-school fitness wearable that heavily relies on people knowing and loving Polar's design and user interface. However, it's cheap and has full multisport functionality, which is rare in this price category. Read my full Polar Pacer Pro review.
The Wahoo Elemnt Rival isn't as feature-packed as the Forerunner 965 (although it received plenty of software updates since the launch), but it might still appeal to keen triathletes thanks to its seamless transition feature that allows for button-free switching between running, cycling and swimming. Read Leon's full Wahoo Elemnt Rival review.