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Garmin Forerunner 265 vs 965: Which one should you buy?

There's a reason these devices aren't priced the same but that doesn't mean they're not both great.
By

Published onMarch 6, 2024

Garmin Forerunner 265S Run
Kaitlyn Cimino / Android Authority

Garmin’s watches are among the best fitness trackers money can buy. For runners, additions to the brand’s Forerunner lineup feature colorful, AMOLED displays for a truly attractive user experience. Conveniently, Garmin offers a multi-tier pricing structure so shoppers of every budget can tap into the company’s powerful ecosystem. We compare the Garmin Forerunner 265 vs 965, two newer Forerunners, to help shoppers determine the best pick.

Garmin Forerunner 265 vs 965: At a glance

  • Both Garmin running watches feature vibrant AMOLED touchscreen displays, staple Garmin training features, and multiband GNSS.
  • The brand's midrange device, the Garmin Forerunner 265, is about $150 less expensive than the high-end Forerunner 965.
  • While the Forerunner 265 is available in case two sizes, the 965 is only available in one size.
  • On the Garmin Forerunner 965, users can access colorful, in-depth map features and additional advanced training metrics.
  • The Forerunner 965 also offers 32 GB of storage vs the 265's 8GB.
  • Respectively, the Forerunner 265 and 265S provide up to 15 or 13 days of use between charges or up to 24 or 20 hours of GPS tracking. The Forerunner 965 claims up to 23 days in smartwatch mode or up to 31 hours using GPS.
  • Neither the Forerunner 265 nor the 965 feature solar charging or wireless charging. Instead, each device ships with a Garmin proprietary charging cable.

Garmin Forerunner 265 vs 965: Specs

Garmin Forerunner 965Garmin Forerunner 265
Display
Garmin Forerunner 965
1.4-inch AMOLED, optional always-on
454 x 454 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 965
47.2 x 47.2 x 13.2mm
53g
Fits wrists 135-205mm
Garmin Forerunner 265
42mm
41.7 x 41.7 x 12.9mm
40g
Fits wrists 115-178mm

46mm
46.1 x 46.1 x 12.9mm
46g
Fits wrists 135-205mm
Colors and materials
Garmin Forerunner 965
Colors: Whitestone or Black case
Amp Yellow/Black, Black/Powder Gray, or Whitestone/Powder Gray Silicone Band
Materials: Gorilla Glass 3 DX, Titanium Bezel display
Garmin Forerunner 265
42mm
Color: Black/Amp Yellow, Whitestone/Neo Tropic, or Light Pink/Powder Gray
Material: Gorilla Glass 3 display, Fiber-reinforced polymer bezel, silicone strap

46mm
Colors: Whitestone/Tidal Blue, Black/Powder Gray, or Aqua/Black
Materials: Gorilla Glass 3 display, Fiber-reinforced polymer bezel
Battery
Garmin Forerunner 965
Smartwatch mode: Up to 23 days
GPS-only without music: Up to 31 hours
SatIQ GNSS mode: Up to 22 hours
All-systems GNSS mode: Up to 19 hours
GPS-only GNSS with music: Up to 10.5 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 965
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
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 965
5ATM
Garmin Forerunner 265
5ATM
Connectivity
Garmin Forerunner 965
NFC
Bluetooth
ANT+
Wi-Fi
Garmin Forerunner 265
NFC
Bluetooth
ANT+
Wi-Fi
Compatibility
Garmin Forerunner 965
Android and iOS
Garmin Forerunner 265
Android and iOS

Garmin Forerunner 265 vs 965: Features

The Forerunner 265 and 965 are updated versions of their predecessors with significant facelifts. Where the older 255 and 955 both featured MIP displays, the newer models introduce vibrant, colorful AMOLED touchscreens. The Forerunner 265 is available in two sizes: a 46mm Forerunner 265 with a 1.3-inch display and a 42mm 265S sporting a slightly smaller 1.1-inch display. The Forerunner 965 is only available in a 47mm case size with a 1.4-inch display.

With its titanium bezel, the larger 965 does have a slightly more premium look, though we thought both devices were very attractive on-wrist during our review periods. Likewise, display resolutions also vary between the models, but we found all options crisp and vibrant. Each watch comes in two-toned colorways and features replaceable silicone bands.

Beneath the glass, both lines share many core features, including robust fitness tracking tools, Garmin’s accurate multi-band chipset for GPS tracking, ABC sensors, a thermometer, and the same reliable Elevate Gen 4 heart rate sensor. Both track HRV, Vo2 Max, SpO2, sleep, stress, and more and offer Garmin Pay support and music storage. The Forerunner 965 can store up to 2000 songs, or roughly four times as many songs as the 265.

Regarding Garmin-specific training tools, the watches again offer some identical experiences, including Morning Report, Body Battery, Training Readiness, Training Status, and more. However, the Forerunner 965 pulls ahead with a few extra advanced training features. These include Climb Pro, PowerGuide, Real-Time Stamina for managing effort, and Load Ratio for comparing short-term and long-term training loads. To help in measuring your load, the device also adds extra sport profiles for tracking more activities. The 965 even integrates ski and golf maps. Other micro-level training tools found only on the Forerunner 965 include an automatic rest timer for breaking down your training patterns and information about how well you acclimate to your current altitude and heat.

The devices share similar core features and toolkits, but compared to the Forerunner 265, the 965 adds more advanced training tools, maps, and additional music storage.

However, the most significant difference users will find on the pricier model is in-depth, built-in topographic maps. These maps offer incredible detail, including landscape information and street and city names. Forerunner 965 users can use NextFork to navigate upcoming turns and AroundMe to find nearby points of interest. The Forerunner 965 even offers a round-trip course creator for exploring new areas. When you’re out and about with the Forerunner 265, you can tap into breadcrumb navigation, but it’s not quite as useful without the detailed map.

Additionally, the Forerunner 965 boasts a bigger battery, though comparing the Forerunner 265 vs 965 in terms of battery life reveals pretty respectable specs across the board. On the Forerunner 265, you’ll get around five days of use between charges. On the 965, that number jumps up to seven days. As always, battery life varies with use. The best way to stretch it on either watch is to disable the always-on display. Without always-on display enabled, the 265 will last up to 15 days, and the smaller 265S will last up to 13. The Forerunner 965 can last more than three weeks. Compared to devices like the Apple Watch, these are great offerings. Both watches come with USB-C charging cables.

Garmin Forerunner 265 vs 965: Price

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

Garmin Forerunner 965: $599 / £599 / €649

Pricing is one area in which the Forerunner 265 has an advantage. At just $449 for either case size, the 265 series represents Garmin’s midrange shelf and is a great bang for your buck. While not cheap, the line is priced in the spitting range of most leading wearables. For entry to one of the most robust and reliable fitness tracking platforms available, that’s a price we’d be willing to pay.

Meanwhile, the 965’s price tag represents its place as the top tier of the Forerunner series. It’s also $100 more than its predecessor without the option to charge by sunlight. Unless you are a dedicated athlete or outdoor enthusiast, you’ll likely end up overpaying for features you won’t really use. On the other hand, if you fall into one of those camps, there isn’t much missing from the 965. The watch tracks nearly all the data we can imagine needing and does so with impressive accuracy.

Garmin Forerunner 265 vs 965: Which should you buy?

After quite some time with both devices, we can wholeheartedly recommend either watch to prospective shoppers. Simply put, both Garmin devices are attractive and durably built, accurate, and packed with more tools than you can feasibly shake a stick at. While the Forerunner 965 offers a little extra, the Forerunner 265 is not anemic. Whether it’s worth $150 for the additional features described above depends on your budget.

Which would you buy: The Garmin Forerunner 265, 265S or 965?

307 votes

As stated, a finely-tuned navigation toolkit is the biggest difference when comparing the Forerunner 265 vs 965. With its detailed maps, niche features, and added storage, the Forerunner 965 is the best choice for dedicated endurance athletes and long-distance training. If you’re unlikely to wander off the beaten path and don’t need every single possible data point trackable, the Forerunner 265 is a very powerful running watch that will serve you just fine. Plus, if you have particularly small wrists, the Forerunner 265S will likely be the most comfortable fit.

Garmin Forerunner 965Garmin Forerunner 965
AA Editors Choice
Garmin Forerunner 965
Crisp OLED display • Upgraded titanium bezel • In-depth mapping options
MSRP: $599.99
Garmin's elite running watch
The Forerunner 965 is one of Garmin's best wearables for runners. This smartwatch is equipped with a bright and colorful AMOLED display, a rich set of sensors, modes, and features, and lightweight titanium parts.
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.

FAQs

Both the Forerunner 265 and 965 feature a 5ATM water resistance rating which makes them safe to wear while swimming in depths up to 50 meters.

Both the Forerunner 265 and 965 offer onboard music storage, but you will need to pair the watches with Bluetooth headphones.

You can sync workouts from either the Forerunner 265 or 965 with your Strava account. However, only the 965 supports Garmin Live Segments and compatibility with Strava Live Segments on-wrist.

Yes. The Forerunner 265 and 965 are built with enough durability to be worn in the shower. Garmin recommends drying your device and your wrist completely afterward.

No, neither the Forerunner 265 nor the 965 can answer calls. The only Garmin devices that support on-wrist phone calls are the Venu 2 Plus, Venu 3, and Venu 3S.

You can read texts on both the Forerunner 265 and 965 and even send quick replies if your watch is paired with an Android phone.

Both the Forerunner 265 and 965 track sleep and supply users with a sleep score each morning.

Yes, both The Forerunner 265 and 965 support digital payments.

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