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A Garmin Forerunner 165 displays a few key widgets.
Kaitlyn Cimino / Android Authority
Garmin Forerunner 165

Garmin Forerunner 165 review: Should you buy it?

A watch for runners looking to cut costs, not quality.
By

Published onMarch 18, 2024

Garmin Forerunner 165

Garmin Forerunner 165

Garmin's Forerunner lineup excels at offering great options for every budget. The Forerunner 165 trims some features from its pricier siblings but still boasts a fantastic user experience, especially for runners. The watch packs accurate sensors, popular Garmin training tools, and a new vibrant and colorful AMOLED display.

MSRP: $249.99

See price at Garmin

What we like

Vibrant, colorful AMOLED display
Great value
Reliable GPS sensor
Accurate heart rate tracking

What we don't like

No triathlon support
Does not support ECG app
Extra cost for Music edition
Garmin Forerunner 165

Garmin Forerunner 165

Garmin's Forerunner lineup excels at offering great options for every budget. The Forerunner 165 trims some features from its pricier siblings but still boasts a fantastic user experience, especially for runners. The watch packs accurate sensors, popular Garmin training tools, and a new vibrant and colorful AMOLED display.

Garmin Forerunner 165 review: At a glance

  • What is it? The latest AMOLED addition to the Forerunner series, the Garmin Forerunner 165 offers runners a budget entry point to the powerful and ever-expanding Garmin watch lineup. Technically, the fitness tracker follows up the more than decade-old 110, but the series has shifted significantly since then with additional devices available at more price points. The Forerunner 165 is available in two models: a base offering and a Music edition with support for offline listening.
  • What is the price? The Garmin Forerunner 165 is priced at $249 for the base model or $299 for the Garmin Forerunner 165 Music edition.
  • Where can you buy it? Shoppers can find the Forerunner 165 series available now from Garmin.com as well as third-party retailers like Amazon.
  • How did we test it? I tested the Garmin Forerunner 165 for six days. The review unit was supplied by Garmin.
  • Is it worth it? The hardest part of Garmin's extensive lineup is weighing the pros and cons of devices at each price point. In the case of the Forerunner 165, the watch drops a few advanced training features to offer a much lower price tag than its fellow Forerunners. However, it still provides a well-rounded fitness tracking experience and boasts fantastic heart rate and GPS accuracy. It also retains key convenience features like automatic nap detection and Garmin Pay while also giving shoppers a choice between bagging music support or saving $50. All in all, it's a reliable and powerful workout companion at a great price.

Should you buy the Garmin Forerunner 165?

A Garmin Forerunner 165 starts a run on their device.
Kaitlyn Cimino / Android Authority

There’s a reason Garmin can claim to offer a “watch for every runner” — the company’s smartwatch stable is saturated with options. The latest addition, the Forerunner 165, joins the family with reliable sensors, detailed data collection, and impressive training tools. Most importantly, it brings a slew of updates that make it a great pick for runners looking to spend a little less. It drops in $200 under 2023’s Forerunner 265 and lands just $50 above the Forerunner 55 while offering a much better user experience.

To my delight, the watch continues Garmin’s glow-up/makeover trend with a colorful new 1.2-inch AMOLED display. This emphasizes the gap between the 165 and the 55, which still features an MIP display. The new model’s touchscreen is plenty viewable in broad daylight and pleasantly responsive, plus it’s attractive. If you prefer to rely on the device’s 5-button configuration, you can disable the touchscreen during activity or even altogether. Personally, I tend to rely on Garmin’s buttons out of habit, but I appreciate the option to tap and scroll.

Garmin Forerunner 165 Watch Face
Kaitlyn Cimino / Android Authority

The Forerunner 165’s glass display pairs with a plastic case that doesn’t scream high-end wristwear, but with vibrant watch face options, the experience doesn’t read as totally cheap either. Users can access various stock faces or download even more picks from Garmin IQ. All are customizable, though generally quite sporty. The case, meanwhile, comes in two neutral colorways for the base edition or four color choices for the Music edition.

Thanks to the Forerunner 165's colorful AMOLED display, the plastic build still feels like a quality sport watch while offering a lower price point.

I tested the Turquoise/Aqua option, and it’s certainly quite loud. I had a friend tell me once that only fast runners should wear bright sneakers, and that’s what this watch reminds me of (my deteriorating speed and resulting desire not to draw attention). Unlike the Forerunner 265, the 165 is only available in one size, which worked great for me, but I do prefer when Garmin offers multiple options. As always, Garmin’s straps are very adjustable and comfortable and, in this case, can be swapped out with any 20mm quick-release strap as well.

The Garmin Forerunner 165 features accurate sensors for monitoring daily and overnight stats.
Kaitlyn Cimino / Android Authority

Beyond its display and build, the Forerunner 165 has a lot to offer. It clocks all the basics, including 24/7 heart rate, blood oxygen levels, activity with more than 25 built-in sport modes, overnight sleep and naps, stress, VO2 max, and HRV. Garmin collects these stats via a reliable sensor package and digests them for users on device as well as in the Garmin app. It also boasts Garmin favorites like Body Battery, Morning Report, and Health Snapshot. In other words, the watch leaves users with a lot of data to unpack.

The Garmin Forerunner 165 records accurate heart rate data compared to a chest strap.

The heart rate monitor on the Forerunner 165 is not Garmin’s latest generation Elevate optical sensor, which means it will not support ECG recordings. However, I found it highly accurate throughout this review period. The graph above shows just one of many workouts where the device kept pace with the Polar HR strap. I ran a series of jog/sprint intervals, and the watch easily matched the peaks and valleys recorded by my go-to chest strap. I also loved the breakdown of heart rate data on device following my workouts.

The Garmin Forerunner 165 even outperformed the Apple Watch Ultra 2 on one neighborhood run regarding GPS.

Additionally, the multi-GNSS sensor tracked near-perfect routes on all my runs and rides. The map above shows how the watch kept up with my Apple Watch Ultra 2, a device with multiband dual-frequency capabilities. In fact, on some of the route, the Forerunner 165 showed my exact location more accurately, while the Apple Watch placed me off the road in people’s years. Different watches will often show small discrepancies, but overall, the GPS tracking on the Forerunner 165 is quite good, as I’d expect from a running-focused sports watch.

The device also packs important training features for those pounding the pavement. First, users can tweak data pages within each sport mode to show priority information like running dynamics or running power. You can also set alerts for different goals, including everything from pace to heart rate, a tool I find helps me stay on track without the distraction of excessive glances at my watch. You can download structured workouts to the watch or use the suggested workouts feature. There are no maps on the device, but it does support breadcrumb-style navigation.

Users won't find the top tier training features available on more expensive models, but there is plenty of data to keep dedicated runners busy.

Likewise, the device doesn’t offer the whole gamut of training/recovery tools found in its more expensive siblings, but after your sweat session, it will calculate your Recovery Time and Training Effect. It also features over 25 sport modes, but users won’t find triathlon or multisport support. This feels like a significant oversight for a running watch, but it’s likely Garmin needs to maintain these cuts to justify the lower price point. The fact is this watch won’t be everything for everyone; that isn’t Garmin’s intention. However, it offers a fantastic price point for wading into the Garmin running world without busting the bank.

Garmin Forerunner 165Garmin Forerunner 165
AA Editors Choice
Garmin Forerunner 165
Vibrant, colorful AMOLED display • Great value • Accurate heart rate tracking
MSRP: $249.99
A watch for runners looking to cut costs, not quality.
The Garmin Forerunner 165 offers runners a budget entry point to the powerful and ever-expanding Garmin watch lineup. Technically, the fitness tracker follows up the more than decade-old 110, but the series has shifted significantly since then with additional devices available at more price points. The Forerunner 165 is available in two models: a base offering and a Music edition with support for offline listening.

What are the best Garmin Forerunner 165 alternatives?

A Garmin Forerunner 165 rest among some of the top alternatives from the market.
Kaitlyn Cimino / Android Authority

As is often the case with Garmin devices, most of this device’s biggest competition comes from the company itself.

  • Garmin Forerunner 265 ($449.99 at Garmin): One tier above the 165 in the Forerunner lineup, the 265 has more sport modes, multi-band dual-frequency GPS, and additional training features. It also comes in two case sizes.
  • Garmin Venu 3 ($449.99 at Amazon): Garmin’s top smartwatch, the Venu 3 still offers detailed fitness tracking but pairs this data with a well-rounded smartwatch experience. It also features Garmin’s latest generation heart rate sensor to provide FDA-approved ECG readings.
  • Garmin Vivoactive 5 ($299.99 at Amazon): Priced slightly higher than the base model Forerunner 165, the Vivoactive 5 offers an attractive Venu 3 smartwatch alternative with many of the same capabilities and highlights. It does not, however, feature ECG support.
  • Apple Watch Series 9 ($392.67 at Amazon): The best smartwatch for iPhone users, the Apple Watch Series 9 features a reliable GPS, accurate heart rate monitoring, and unmatched third-party app support.
  • Fitbit Charge 6 ($159.95 at Amazon): Our top pick for a band-style fitness tracker, the Fitbit Charge 6 offers a much shallower tracking experience for those interested in basic data.
  • Garmin Forerunner 965 ($599.99 at Garmin): At the opposite end of the spectrum sits Garmin’s top running-focused watch, the $600 Forerunner 965 features all the best training and recovery tools Garmin has to offer.

Garmin Forerunner 165 specs

Garmin Forerunner 165
Display
43mm
1.2-inch AMOLED, optional always-on
390 x 390 resolution
Dimensions and weight
43 x 43 x 11.6mm
39g
Colors
Turquoise/Aqua
Berry/Lilac
Mist Gray/Whitestone
Black/Slate Gray
Battery
Smartwatch mode: Up to 11 days
Battery Saver Smartwatch mode: Up to 20 days
GPS-Only GNSS mode: Up to 19 hours
All-Systems GNSS mode: Up to 17 hours
Sensors
GPS
GLONASS
GALILEO
Garmin Elevate Heart Rate Sensor
Barometric Altimeter
Compass
Gyroscope
Accelerometer
Thermometer
Ambient Light Sensor
Pulse Ox Blood Oxygen Saturation Monitor
Durability
5ATM

Chemically-strengthened glass face
Connectivity
NFC
Bluetooth
ANT+
Wi-Fi
Compatibility
Android and iOS

Garmin Forerunner 165 review: FAQ

The Garmin Forerunner 165 features a water resistance rating of 5ATM, so it can stand up to splashes, rain, showering, and swims to depths up to 50 meters.

Only the pricier Forerunner 165 Music model offers support for music and offline listening. This model costs $50 more than the base model.

The Garmin Forerunner 165 has a responsive touchscreen that can be customized to users’s preferences.

A Golf mode is not offered on the Garmin Forerunner 165 but can be found on the similarly priced Vivoactive 5.

Yes, the Garmin Forerunner 165 can even broadcast users’ heart rate over ANT+ and Bluetooth Smart to show live data in the Strava app.

Yes, the Garmin Forerunner 165 packs a highly reliable GPS.

Yes, both models of the Garmin Forerunner 165 support Garmin Pay.