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Garmin Forerunner 165 vs Forerunner 265: What's the difference?

Garmin's two budget training watches go head to head. Which is best for you?
By

Published onMarch 5, 2024

Garmin Forerunner 265
MSRP: $449.99
Check price
Positives
Beautiful AMOLED touchscreen display
Multiples sizes with music storage standard
Accurate heart tracking
Reliable GPS with SatIQ
Training Readiness is great
Negatives
Limited hardware upgrades
More expensive than the Forerunner 255
Garmin Forerunner 265S
MSRP: $449.99
Check price
Positives
More compact than standard model
Longer battery life
Same features as the larger model
Negatives
Smaller display
Thicker bezels
No price decrease for smaller size
Garmin Forerunner 165
MSRP: $249.99
Check price
Positives
Vibrant, colorful AMOLED display
Great value
Reliable GPS sensor
Accurate heart rate tracking
Negatives
No triathlon support
Does not support ECG app
Extra cost for Music edition

The Garmin Forerunner 165 is the long-time-coming replacement for the venerable but aging Forerunner 55. It brings a host of upgrades over that particular model, but how does the newcomer compare to a device that’s slightly higher up the rung, like the Forerunner 265? If you’re a keen athlete looking for a training watch, get stuck into our Garmin Forerunner 165 vs Forerunner 265 comparison below.

Garmin Forerunner 165 vs Forerunner 265: At a glance

  • The Garmin Forerunner 165 is cheaper than the Forerunner 265.
  • The Forerunner 265 has more training features than the Forerunner 165.
  • The Garmin Forerunner 265 has better positioning technology than the Forerunner 165.
  • The Forerunner 265 has a better battery life than the 165, but only just.
  • The Forerunner 165 lacks the Gorilla Glass 3 display protection featured on the Forerunner 265.
  • Only one version of the 165 supports onboard music playback, but all 265 models feature support.

Garmin Forerunner 165 vs Forerunner 265: Specs

Garmin Forerunner 165Garmin Forerunner 265
Display
Garmin Forerunner 165
43mm
1.2-inch AMOLED, optional always-on
390 x 390 resolution
Garmin Forerunner 265
42mm
1.1-inch AMOLED, optional always-on
360 x 360 resolution

46mm
1.3-inch AMOLED, optional always-on
416 x 416 resolution
Dimensions and weight
Garmin Forerunner 165
43 x 43 x 11.6mm
39g
Garmin Forerunner 265
42mm
41.7 x 41.7 x 12.9mm
40g

46mm
46.1 x 46.1 x 12.9mm
46g
Colors
Garmin Forerunner 165
Turquoise/Aqua
Berry/Lilac
Mist Gray/Whitestone
Black/Slate Gray
Garmin Forerunner 265
42mm:
Black/Amp Yellow
Whitestone/Neo Tropic
Light Pink/Powder Gray

46mm:
Whitestone/Tidal Blue
Black/Powder Gray
Aqua/Black
Battery
Garmin Forerunner 165
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
Garmin Forerunner 265
42mm
Smartwatch mode: Up to 15 days
GPS-only without music: Up to 24 hours
SatIQ GNSS mode: Up to 18 hours
All-Systems GNSS mode: Up to 15 hours
GPS-only GNSS mode with music: Up to 7.5 hours

46mm
Smartwatch mode: Up to 13 days
GPS-only mode: Up to 20 hours
SatIQ GNSS mode: Up to 16 hours
All-systems GNSS mode: Up to 14 hours
GPS-only GNSS mode with music: Up to 7 hours
Sensors
Garmin Forerunner 165
GPS
GLONASS
GALILEO
Garmin Elevate Heart Rate Sensor
Barometric Altimeter
Compass
Gyroscope
Accelerometer
Thermometer
Ambient Light Sensor
Pulse Ox Blood Oxygen Saturation Monitor
Garmin Forerunner 265
GPS
GLONASS
GALILEO
Multi-Frequency Positioning
SatIQ Technology
Garmin Elevate Heart Rate Sensor
Barometric Altimeter
Compass
Gyroscope
Accelerometer
Thermometer
Ambient Light Sensor
Pulse Ox Blood Oxygen Saturation Monitor
Durability
Garmin Forerunner 165
5ATM

Chemically-strengthened glass face
Garmin Forerunner 265
5ATM

Corning Gorilla Glass 3 face
Connectivity
Garmin Forerunner 165
NFC
Bluetooth
ANT+
Wi-Fi
Garmin Forerunner 265
NFC
Bluetooth
ANT+
Wi-Fi
Compatibility
Garmin Forerunner 165
Android and iOS
Garmin Forerunner 265
Android and iOS

Garmin Forerunner 165 vs Forerunner 265: Design, size comparison, and colors

The Garmin Forerunner 165 is aesthetically similar to its 265 sibling, including button positions, slotted strap designs, and Garmin’s UI. The device has a 43mm dial and a 1.2-inch AMOLED display — a substantial upgrade over the Forerunner 55’s 1.04-inch MIP screen. Unlike the 165, the Garmin Forerunner 265 comes in two distinct sizes. The smaller option, the Forerunner 265S, features a 42mm dial with a 1.1-inch display. The larger Forerunner 265 model packs a 1.3-inch display with a 46mm dial. As a result of its bigger footprint, the Forerunner 265 weighs around 20% more (47g) than the 165 and 265S (39g).

The Forerunner 265 features Corning Gorilla Glass 3 protection on its display — this applies to both models, while the Forerunner 165 settles for “chemically strengthened glass.”

As for colors, the Forerunner 165 provides a few more adventurous shades. I particularly like the two-tone colorways with a darker outline. Turquoise/Aqua and Berry/Lilac join the more neutral Mist Gray/Whitestone and Black/Slate Gray.

With the Forerunner 265, you also have a choice of case colors to match your band. The shades on offer include Light Pink/Powder Gray, Whitestone/Neo Tropic, Black/Amp Yellow, Aqua/Black, Black/Powder Gray, and Whitestone/Tidal.

Garmin Forerunner 165 vs Forerunner 265: Features

A user review watch face option in the Garmin Connect IQ app.
Kaitlyn Cimino / Android Authority

Through daily wear, there aren’t many differences you’ll notice between the Forerunner 165 and 265. Both offer users gorgeous AMOLED displays, a swift UI, and plenty of workout and activity features. If you’re a casual runner, you’ll likely never need some of the sports tracking modes on the 265, including skiing and MMA. However, more serious athletes should take note of the core differences between the two models.

For starters, the Forerunner 165 lacks multi-band GPS support, which would allow the watch to connect to positioning systems through multiple frequencies. This, in theory, allows the watch to more accurately track your adventure as overhead conditions or your environment changes. While this isn’t a huge disadvantage versus the Forerunner 265, it’s worth noting for potential 165 buyers who train in heavily wooded areas or urban jungles.

If you enjoy listening to music while training, both Forerunner 265 models support onboard streaming services and music storage. However, only the Garmin Forerunner 165 Music edition supports this feature and demands a $50 premium.

As for endurance, Garmin quotes a 15-day battery life for the Forerunner 265S, 13 days for the larger 265 model, and 11 days for the 165 and 165 Music. There’s no real winner or loser here. All three figures are impressive.

If you're serious about training, the Garmin Forerunner 265 is your only option here.

The biggest difference between the two devices is the lack of training and recovery features on the 165. While the 265 includes Training Load, Readiness, and Status details, the 165 lacks these indicators, which help users gauge the effectiveness of their training on their bodies and recovery. These metrics help users better prepare for sustained performance during a long cycle or marathon, balancing rest with activity. If you’re serious about training, the Garmin Forerunner 265 is your only option here. The Forerunner 265 also includes more multisport modes and a triathlon mode. Oddly enough, the 165 lacks support for cycling power meters, making it far less helpful to cyclists and triathletes.

Finally, you’ll still find other Garmin staples on both watches. This includes Body Battery, which gauges a user’s energy levels, and Morning Report, which details a daily summary of a user’s general health. Garmin’s useful sleep tracking features are also present on both devices.

Garmin Forerunner 165 vs Forerunner 265: Price and availability

  • Garmin Forerunner 165: $249.99
  • Garmin Forerunner 165 Music: $299.99
  • Garmin Forerunner 265S: $449.99
  • Garmin Forerunner 265: $449.99

The Garmin Forerunner 165 is the newer of the two models, launching on February 20, 2024. It’s available in one single size but two distinct models. The base 165 starts at $249.99; a marked increase of $50 over the Forerunner 55 model it replaces. A Garmin Forerunner 165 Music model also brings onboard music capabilities to the device for an additional $50.

The Garmin Forerunner 265 launched in March 2023 for $449.99. This price includes both 265 and 265S models.

Both watches can be purchased directly from Garmin.

Garmin Forerunner 165 vs Forerunner 265: Which should you buy?

A user starts a run on their Garmin fitness tracker.
Kaitlyn Cimino / Android Authority

Garmin’s two budget training watches have plenty in common and their core experience will leave users with a similar impression. However, it’s the minute differences that avid runners and athletes should focus on.

The Garmin Forerunner 265 is the better training watch, giving users more training features, triathlon and additional sports modes, and better positioning tech. It also has onboard music playback as a standard, a larger display, and better display protection. Arguably, the strap designs are more mature and palatable, too. Yes, it’s a steeper investment, but rewards users with more in-depth analysis.

The Forerunner 265 is a steeper investment, but it rewards users with more in-depth analysis.

Alternatively, the Forerunner 165 is a solid step up from the outgoing Forerunner 55. It boasts similar aesthetics to the Forerunner 265, gains a bright AMOLED display and Garmin’s pleasant UI that comes with that upgrade. It also packs all the usual Garmin features, like Body Battery and Morning Report. It’s a good starter training watch, especially if you’re on a strict budget.

What else could you get for the cash? Well, for the same price as the 165 Music you could snag the Instinct 2 ($295 at Amazon), a better adventure watch for more extreme athletes, albeit with a less impressive display. And if you aren’t desperate for an outdoor-orientated watch, why not opt for something more traditional? The Galaxy Watch 6 ($299.99 at Samsung) has great wellness monitoring features and a sleeker aesthetic. Alternatively, Garmin’s own Venu 3 ($449.99 at Amazon) is a more complete smartwatch with additional health features for the same price as the 265.

See price at Garmin
Garmin Forerunner 265
Garmin Forerunner 265
AMOLED display
Music storage
GPS
Health and fitness tracking
See price at Garmin
Garmin Forerunner 165
Garmin Forerunner 165
Vibrant, colorful AMOLED display
Great value
Accurate heart rate tracking

That’s it for our Garmin Forerunner 165 vs Forerunner 265 comparison. Which watch would you buy? Let us know by voting in our poll below.

Which would you rather buy, the Garmin Forerunner 165 or 265?

25 votes

Garmin Forerunner 165 vs Forerunner 265: FAQ

Yes, the Garmin Forerunner 265 is worth it if you’re budget limited but are looking for a capable watch for training.

Yes, the Garmin Forerunner 165 and Forerunner 265 have a 5ATM water resistance rating.

The Forerunner 265S features a smaller screen and longer battery life than the Forerunner 265. It also weighs less.