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Garmin Forerunner 255 vs 265: Which one should you buy?

AMOLED excellence squares up against an outdated display.
By
November 28, 2023
A Garmin Forerunner 265S displays a native watch face.
Kaitlyn Cimino / Android Authority

To oversimplify, Garmin’s Forerunner 265 adds a fresh face to the already powerful Forerunner 255 feature set. Beyond their contrasting screens, the devices share many core features. In fact, many of the new generation’s software updates will even roll back to the previous one, keeping the Garmin devices neck and neck. On the other hand, the 265 does pack a few important upgrades that differentiate the device from its older sibling. Find out which fitness tracker is right for your wrist in this Garmin Forerunner 255 vs 265 comparison.

Garmin Forerunner 255 vs 265: At a glance

  • The Garmin Forerunner 255 and 265 represent subsequent models of Garmin's midrange running watch line.
  • The Garmin Forerunner 255 features a 64-color MIP display, while the 265 features a full-color AMOLED display.
  • The Forerunner 255 is available in a standard model and a Music edition, which supports offline music storage. The Forerunner 265 features music storage as standard.
  • Both lines are available in two sizes.
  • The devices share the same core experience, including most of Garmin's top training tools, accurate GPS tracking, and a reliable heart rate monitor.
  • Training Readiness is only available on the Forerunner 265.

Garmin Forerunner 255 vs 265: Specs

Garmin Forerunner 255/255SGarmin Forerunner 265
Display
Garmin Forerunner 255/255S
41mm:
1.1-inch MIP
218 x 218 resolution

46mm:
1.3-inch MIP
260 x 260 resolution
Garmin Forerunner 265
42mm:
1.1-inch AMOLED, optional always-on
360 x 360 resolution

46mm:
1.3-inch MIP
416 x 416 resolution
Dimensions and weight
Garmin Forerunner 255/255S
41mm:
41 x 41 x 12.4mm
39g w/o strap
Fits wrists 110-175mm

46mm:
45.6 x 45.6 x 12.9mm
49g w/o strap
Fits wrists 130-205mm
Garmin Forerunner 265
42mm:
41.7 x 41.7 x 12.9mm
40 w/o strap
Fits wrists 115-178mm

46mm:
46.1 x 46.1 x 12.9mm
46g w/o strap
Fits wrists 135-205mm
Colors and materials
Garmin Forerunner 255/255S
41mm:
Color: Powder Gray or Light Pink
Material: Gorilla Glass 3 display, Fiber-reinforced polymer bezel, silicone strap

46mm:
Color: Tidal Blue or Slate Gray
Material: Gorilla Glass 3 display, Fiber-reinforced polymer bezel, silicone strap
Garmin Forerunner 265
42mm:
Color: Black/Amp Yello, Whitestone/Neo Tropic, or Light Pink/Powder Gray
Material: Gorilla Glass 3 display, Fiber-reinforced polymer bezel, silicone strap

46mm:
Color: Whitestone/Tidal Blue, Black/Powder Gray, or Aqua/Black
Material: Gorilla Glass 3 display, Fiber-reinforced polymer bezel, silicone strap
Battery
Garmin Forerunner 255/255S
41mm
Up to 12 days in smartwatch mode
Up to 26 hours in GPS-only GNSS mode
Up to 20 hours in All-Systems GNSS mode

46mm:
Up to 14 days in smartwatch mode
Up to 30 hours in GPS-only GNSS mode
Up to 25 hours in All-Systems GNSS Mode
Garmin Forerunner 265
42mm:
Up to 15 days in smartwatch mode
Up to 24 hours GPS-only GNSS mode
Up to 15 hours in All-Systems GNSS mode

46mm:
Up to 13 days in smartwatch mode
Up to 20 hours in GPS-only GNSS mode
Up to 14 hours in All-Systems GNSS Mode
Sensors
Garmin Forerunner 255/255S
GPS
GLONASS
GALILEO
Multi-Frequency Positioning
Garmin Elevate
Barometric Altimeter
Compass
Gyroscope
Accelerometer
Thermometer
Pulse Ox Blood Oxygen Saturation Monitor
Garmin Forerunner 265
GPS
GLONASS
GALILEO
Multi-Frequency Positioning
Garmin Elevate
Barometric Altimeter
Compass
Gyroscope
Accelerometer
Thermometer
Pulse Ox Blood Oxygen Saturation Monitor
Durability
Garmin Forerunner 255/255S
5ATM
Garmin Forerunner 265
5ATM
Connectivity
Garmin Forerunner 255/255S
NFC
Bluetooth
Wi-Fi
Garmin Forerunner 265
NFC
Bluetooth
Wi-Fi
Compatibility
Garmin Forerunner 255/255S
Android and iOS
Garmin Forerunner 265
Android and iOS

The most important thing to know when comparing the Forerunner 255 vs 265 is that both are great fitness trackers. During our Forerunner 255 review, we felt the device significantly improved the Forerunner line with NFC support and upgraded sensors. Before it was outdone by the 265, we considered it the best midrange running watch you could buy.

Still, Garmin has a knack for giving users exactly what they ask for, and the Forerunner 265 is a fantastic example. Running enthusiasts were eager for an AMOLED display on a device that wouldn’t break the bank. The Forerunner 265 fills that void. The new model features a vibrant, AMOLED touchscreen display, a major boost in resolution, and an updated UI that’s equally crisp. We found the user experience much cleaner and more enjoyable than an MIP display during our Garmin Forerunner 265 review. All-in-all, the change elevates Garmin’s mid-budget lineup to the aesthetic of a modern smartwatch, including an optional always-on mode.

The biggest differences between the Forerunner 255 and 265 are their respective displays and the availability of Garmin's Training Readiness.

Of course, the best part of any screen is the information you can access on it. On both generations, Garmin delivers tons of useful performance training metrics. These tools include everything from Body Battery, and Morning Report to Pace Pro, and much, much more. Even built-in running dynamics, which were introduced with the Forerunner 265, will roll back to the older generation.

Training Readiness is the major exception that can only be found in the newest lineup. This is a hugely beneficial tool for analyzing how prepared you are for a given workout. It’s a metric that alone might sway serious athletes to pick up the pricier new generation.

Fortunately, those athletes will also likely be able to find a solid fit as, like the previous model, the 265 series is still available in two sizes. The line’s 42mm and 46mm cases are slightly larger than the 255’s 41mm and 44mm options. Unlike the previous model, however, the new lineup includes offline music storage as standard, so there’s no longer the need to pay extra for a Music edition.

 

Regarding Forerunner 255 vs 265 comparisons in terms of power, battery life isn’t significantly different between the two devices. A bright, AMOLED display will always use your battery faster, and always-on mode will drain it quickly. Without always-on mode, though, the 265 offers multi-week use between charges, just like its predecessor. The newest lineup didn’t bring wireless charging to the table, so either way, you’re left with a Garmin proprietary charging cable.

Finally, a few things are missing on both lineups that are worth considering. Users won’t find an ECG-compatible heart rate sensor (like on the Venu 3 and others) in either generation. They also don’t offer fully-baked smartwatch experiences. Neither generation packs a speaker or microphone, so on-device voice calls are a no-go.

Garmin Forerunner 255 vs 265: Price

Garmin Forerunner 255: $349 / €349 / £299
Garmin Forerunner 255 Music: $399 / €399 / £349

Garmin Forerunner 265: $449 / €429 / £499
Garmin Forerunner 265S: $449 / €429 / £499

At launch, the Garmin Forerunner 255 hit shelves at $349 for a standard model. A Music edition pulled an extra $50 from shoppers’ wallets. As mentioned above, either edition is available in two sizes, and pricing does not change based on your chosen size. As the devices are still fairly new, you may still find them priced around the same. On the other hand, Garmin devices tend to go on sale once a newer model is available.

When the Forerunner 265 landed, Garmin simplified the lineup by adding music storage as a base feature. This also simplified pricing to a single $449 cost across the board. The 265 and 265S offer the same experience and features; they’re simply different sizes. While the upgraded lineup received a $50 price bump, the markup is pretty moderate compared to rising prices in the wearables market.

Garmin Forerunner 255Garmin Forerunner 255
AA Recommended
Garmin Forerunner 255
Multiple sizes to fit more wrists • Supports NFC and Garmin Pay • Gyroscope and barometric altimeter
MSRP: $349.99
Garmin's mid-level, fitness-tracking smartwatch loaded with features
The Garmin Forerunner 255 offers accurate GPS tracking and solid battery life in an attractive package. It's even available in two case sizes with optional music support. With Garmin's powerful training tools on board including an updated triathlon mode, its easy to recommend to any athlete.
Garmin Forerunner 265Garmin Forerunner 265
AA Editors Choice
Garmin Forerunner 265
AMOLED display • Music storage • GPS • Health and fitness tracking
MSRP: $449.99
Night runs just got a whole lot brighter
Stepping up from its predecessor, the Garmin Forerunner 265 offers the same great features, with improvements to make it a reliable, lightweight running watch with an AMOLED display.

Garmin Forerunner 255 vs 265: Which should you buy?

The final call on choosing a Forerunner 255 vs 265 comes down to personal preference and budget. Fortunately, either way, you’ll end up with a winning device. If an AMOLED display is a priority, the answer is easy. The answer may be less decisive if you’re more interested in substance than style. Both generations pack tons of sport modes, training tools, and accurate sensors backed by an incredible fitness-tracking platform.

Which would you buy: The Garmin Forerunner 255, 255 Music, or 265?

299 votes

Garmin has also been known to support its devices for many years, so there’s no real risk in choosing the older tech. If you want to save some cash, we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend a Forerunner 255. Conversely, Training Readiness is a unique and valuable tool for athletes. Anyone who wants every stat imaginable at their disposal should strongly consider the newer Forerunner 265. Even if you already own a Forerunner 255, Training Readiness alone might warrant an upgrade.

If you want an even more budget-friendly watch, the Garmin Forerunner 55 is also a solid device for runners. It’s a well-rounded pick at a great price. We’re also keeping our fingers crossed for an upgraded model. Check out our Garmin Forerunner 65 wishlist to read more about what we hope to see.


FAQs

Though not waterproof, both the Forerunner 255 and 265 feature a water resistance rating of 5ATM.

Yes, you can swim with both the Forerunner 255 and 265 to depths up to 50 meters.

Yes, 5ATM water resistance makes both lineups safe to wear while showering. Afterward, Garmin recommends drying the device thoroughly as well as your wrist.

The Forerunner 255 Music edition, 265, and 265S all support offline music storage. However, you must pair the devices with Bluetooth headphones to listen.

Both the Forerunner 255 and 265 provide automatic sleep detection.

Yes, all Forerunner 255 and 265 devices feature NFC support for Garmin Pay.