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A Garmin Forerunner 965 on a user's wrist displays the home screen.
Ryan Haines / Android Authority
aa2020 editors choice

Garmin Forerunner 965 review: AMOLED excellence

A little color goes a long, long way.
By

Published onMay 5, 2023

aa2020 editors choice

Garmin Forerunner 965

The rich get richer as Garmin's Forerunner 965 picks up a vibrant AMOLED face to match its already excellent set of sensors. We'll miss features like the solar charging ring, but it's tough to argue against multi-week battery life and a near-endless list of workout types. If you want a truly brilliant running watch, the Forerunner 965 is one of the best money can buy.

What we like

Crisp OLED display
Upgraded titanium bezel
In-depth mapping options
Responsive touchscreen
Advanced training metrics
Accurate HR and GPS

What we don't like

No solar charging option
No wireless charging
No ECG
aa2020 editors choice

Garmin Forerunner 965

The rich get richer as Garmin's Forerunner 965 picks up a vibrant AMOLED face to match its already excellent set of sensors. We'll miss features like the solar charging ring, but it's tough to argue against multi-week battery life and a near-endless list of workout types. If you want a truly brilliant running watch, the Forerunner 965 is one of the best money can buy.

Garmin has never been one for annual updates. Or iterative ones, for that matter. It waited three years between launching the Forerunner 945 and the 955, taking time to refine its sensors and improve its battery life. Now, it’s speeding things up a bit. Just nine months after the arrival of the Forerunner 955, its successor arrived. The Garmin Forerunner 965 hopes to cement the series’ place among the best smartwatches for runners with a vibrant AMOLED display and some premium new materials. Find out more in our Garmin Forerunner 965 review.

About this Garmin Forerunner 965 review: I tested the Garmin Forerunner 965 over a period of three weeks. It was running on software version 3.58 for the duration of my testing. The unit was provided by Garmin for this review.

Garmin Forerunner 965 review: What you need to know

garmin forerunner 965 box contents
Ryan Haines / Android Authority
  • Garmin Forerunner 965: $599 / £599 / €649

Garmin announced its premium new Forerunner 965 running watch alongside its mid-range Forerunner 265 in early March 2023. It succeeds the Forerunner 955 and 955 Solar nine months after their introduction and brings a crisp AMOLED touchscreen to an otherwise familiar design.

Unlike the previous Garmin Forerunner 955 and 955 Solar duo, there’s only one version of the Forerunner 965. That means you won’t have the option of a solar charging ring, but it also means the only choice you have to make is which colorway you prefer. The Garmin Forerunner 965 comes with a titanium bezel on all three colors, so it’s up to you whether you want Whitestone, Black and Powder Gray, or Black and Amp Yellow. We tested the Whitestone version with a matching 22mm Whitestone band.

In addition to the new titanium bezel, the Forerunner 965 sports a 1.4-inch Gorilla Glass 3 DX display with a 454 x 454 resolution. The overall case measures 47.2mm x 47.2mm and comes sized to fit wrists from 135mm to 205mm. Garmin’s latest premium running watch is lightweight at just 53g, and the 5ATM water resistance rating ensures you can dive to depths of up to 50 meters before sustaining any water damage.

While the extensive sensors are unchanged, Garmin's new AMOLED face brings a serious shine to its premium running watch.

Like its predecessor, the Garmin Forerunner 965 offers 32GB of onboard storage to download music, podcasts, and additional maps — including golf courses. Although you can store your music, there’s no speaker on the Forerunner 965, so you’ll have to pair Bluetooth headphones for playback. You get an NFC chip for wireless payments through Garmin Pay, which is standard across the Forerunner lineup.

As for sensors, the Garmin Forerunner 965 remains largely the same as the previous Forerunner 955. It packs a reliable suite of sensors, including multi-band GNSS, SatIQ technology, and Garmin’s Training Readiness tool. The Forerunner 965 also has fitness tracking and health metrics like heart rate, Pulse Ox, and Body Battery, which tells you how well you’ve recovered (or how much effort you’ve expended) throughout the day. Other sensors include a compass, gyroscope, barometric altimeter, and thermometer.

What sets the Forerunner 965 apart from its mid-range Forerunner 265 counterpart, however, is its in-depth mapping features. It comes loaded with full-color support, differentiating roads, parks, and houses for easy navigation. The Forerunner 965 also supports trail maps, enabling you to retrace your steps should you wander off the beaten path.

The Forerunner 965 did receive a price bump as part of its facelift, with all models now costing $599. This was previously the cost for the Solar model, with the base version coming in at $499. All three colorways offer the same features, and you can pick up the Garmin Forerunner 965 directly from Garmin.

What I like about the Garmin Forerunner 965

garmin forerunner 965 map
Ryan Haines / Android Authority

The best thing about the Garmin Forerunner 965 — and the thing that sets it apart from the Forerunner 265 — is its mapping. I’ve been putting in plenty of offroad miles to put the Forerunner 965 through its paces, both on low-impact hikes and on twisty, technical trail runs. Being blessed with an internal compass that works like a broken clock, I’ve toggled to the Forerunner 965’s map display more times than I’d like to count.

Granted, the image above doesn’t show me completely lost — it’s more for illustration since I rarely stop to take a photo when I’m bushwhacking to find a trail. However, it’s a perfect illustration of the Forerunner 965’s capabilities. Roads are neatly labeled, as are streams, and there’s always a bright red arrow pointing north. The Forerunner 965 also gives you a handy heads-up as to the next turn on your route if you come to a fork and aren’t sure which way to go.

Almost as important as saving my bacon from a wrong turn, the Forerunner 965 can generate turn-by-turn running routes if you’re up for some exploration. I often fall into the same reliable five-mile jaunt, so the generated routes have been a great way to explore my hometown while sticking to a comfortable distance. You can select the length of your run, anywhere from one to 100 miles, and Garmin handles the rest.

Garmin's mapping features are more than worth the price of entry if you're directionally challenged like I am.

Of course, you won’t be able to appreciate the maps — or any of Garmin’s countless workout types — without first acknowledging the Forerunner 965’s brand-new AMOLED touchscreen. It’s a tenth of an inch larger than the Forerunner 955’s display, but the gap in quality is massive. Garmin’s AMOLED is bright with punchy colors, and the new panel introduces animations throughout the software. For example, the Morning Report now displays a steaming cup of coffee (or tea) before diving into your sleep recap and Body Battery. It’s much easier to lift your wrist and pick out your heart rate or distance while running, but the overall interface is exactly the same as on previous Forerunner models, so there’s no learning curve.

With that upgraded display, you might expect the Forerunner 965’s battery performance to take a hit. It’s true, it’s not quite as stellar as the Forerunner 955 Solar, but I’ve only had to charge the newer watch once during my testing period, and that was two or three days ago. It’s had no problems balancing life in smartwatch mode with trail runs, hikes, yoga practices (yes, Garmin has a yoga mode), and standard road runs. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but I’m happy to trade charging every three weeks for charging every two and a half weeks, given the massively improved display. Granted, I skipped Garmin’s optional always-on setting, as the watch lights up with no problem when I bring it in front of my face. If you toggle the always-on display, the battery life will drop to about seven days between charges.

Garmin’s five-button navigation has grown on me over time, but I’m glad to see the Forerunner 965 stick to a combination of buttons and a touchscreen. I tend to sweat heavily, making the touchscreen a no-go while running, but some might prefer the relative simplicity. Five buttons might still be more than you need on a watch, but it’s easy to get used to them, and the much larger Start/Stop button is easy to find without looking for it.

The Forerunner 965’s titanium bezel is another classy, if subtle, upgrade. It adds a little extra peace of mind knowing that you can spend a day rock climbing or take a tumble while on a hike and you won’t pick up scratches or scrapes. By the way, if you take a tumble, I can attest to the speed of Garmin’s fall detection — I had a few close calls during a marathon with a previous watch, and it kicks in almost instantly. Back to the styling, I prefer the slightly darker titanium finish on the Black and Powder Gray model, but the durability is there all the same.

The Forerunner 965's titanium bezel is a classy, if subtle, upgrade.

Rounding out Garmin’s premium configuration, it’s great to see 32GB of storage return for all of your music and mapping needs. It’s not warm enough for golf here in Pennsylvania yet, but all of my local courses are available to download, and I plan to do just that in the coming months. I’ve also downloaded a few playlists to stream through my Shokz OpenRun Pro headphones on days I can’t be bothered to bring my phone along.

With Garmin limiting the Forerunner 965’s upgrades to the new AMOLED panel, there’s one thing I knew I wouldn’t have to worry about — the sensors. Unlike the Forerunner 265, the premium Forerunner 965 didn’t have to gain any features because it already had them all. Garmin’s Training Readiness metric is one of its newest, allowing you to see just how prepared you are for an upcoming workout or if you should probably take a rest day instead. The Elevate heart rate sensor is spot-on, too, easily keeping pace with my trusty Polar H10 heart rate sensor, which I keep with my Coros Pace 2 watch.

forerunner 965 map
Ryan Haines / Android Authority

Garmin’s GPS accuracy is perhaps just as important as its heart rate accuracy, so I went into my review with high expectations. After all, if I was going to risk getting lost on a hike or a trail run, I at least wanted to make sure I could follow my breadcrumbs back to the car. As you can see on the map above, the GPS accuracy is no problem. I took the Forerunner 965 on an ill-advised (highly technical, twisty singletrack) trail run in a Maryland state park, and my path stayed all but locked onto the trail the entire time. The Forerunner 965 syncs seamlessly with Strava, meaning you can import community-created routes if you want to take your own shot at my twisty trail.

There are a few spots where it deviated towards the right of the map, but that’s likely due to an inaccuracy on the map’s part. My GPS route follows almost the same line, going out and coming back, so I’m guessing the difference is due to the natural growth surrounding the trail.

What I don’t like about the Garmin Forerunner 965

garmin forerunner 965 band closure
Ryan Haines / Android Authority

Hunting for flaws on the Garmin Forerunner 965 is no easier than it was on the Forerunner 955. I compared that watch to buying a Ferrari and then complaining about your color options, and the same pretty much holds true here. Garmin’s bright, shiny display makes everything more vibrant and eye-catching, but it doesn’t necessarily fix any of the minor points from the last time around.

That means, above all else, that Garmin’s proprietary charging cables continue strong and steady into 2023. The four-pin design is exactly the same as it’s always been, and there’s not a sniff of wireless charging support. Yes, the Forerunner 965 finally comes with a USB-C cable rather than USB-A, but the relatively minor update would have been the perfect time to introduce Qi charging to the fitness lineup. We’ve already seen Garmin take small steps into wireless charging with the vivomove Trend, and bringing it to the premium Forerunner would have made the update feel a little less iterative.

With no solar option and still no wireless charging, you're only option is the Forerunner 965's proprietary charger.

Adding onto the charging setup, the Garmin Forerunner 965 no longer has a solar option. Granted, not everyone wants to spend an extra $100 on an already expensive running watch, but the solar ring was one of my favorite features. It stretched the battery life for a few extra days, and it also felt like I was rewarding myself for spending more time in the sun. Of course, it’s been replaced by the premium titanium bezel and AMOLED display, but a solar option would have been nice for a little extra battery power.

Also, like the Forerunner 955, Garmin continues to ignore the convenience of quick-release bands on the Forerunner 965. It’s particularly confusing because some of the company’s more affordable models, like the Forerunner 265, do include quick-release bands. Instead, the Forerunner 965 asks you to do a little extra work with a flathead screwdriver to customize what should be an easy swap. On the bright side, the watch uses 22mm bands, so you can continue to cycle through previous watch bands if you already have them.

I’ve also noticed that the Garmin Forerunner 965 comes with a fraction of the watch faces that its predecessor had. With the Forerunner 955, you could use Garmin’s Connect IQ store to download designs from the community, but that no longer appears to be an option, with the Forerunner 965 limited to about a dozen onboard faces.

The downside to Garmin leaving its sensors unchanged is that we still have a few lingering issues from the Forerunner 955. For starters, there’s no ECG capability due to the lack of an insulating ring around the rear sensor to measure the electrical current. This feature remains limited to Garmin’s Venu 2 Plus for the time being, while others like Apple and Fitbit are pushing to expand their ECG capabilities. Of course, you might never take an ECG reading with your watch, but you’re bound to notice just how long some of Garmin’s other features take to get up to speed. If you’re new to the Garmin game, you’ll have to sleep with your watch on for about three weeks before it picks up on your HRV and hones in on your sleep patterns. Luckily, it shouldn’t take nearly as long if you’re just coming to the Forerunner 965 from another Garmin watch, but it’s something to watch for.

Garmin Forerunner 965 specs

Garmin Forerunner 965
Display
1.4-inch AMOLED, optional always-on
454 x 454 resolution
Dimensions and weight
47.2 x 47.2 x 13.2mm
53g
Fits wrists 135-205mm
Colors and materials
Titanium Bezel
Whitestone or Black case
Amp Yellow/Black, Black/Powder Gray, or Whitestone/Powder Gray Silicone Band
Gorilla Glass 3 DX display
Battery
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
Sensors
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
5ATM
Connectivity
NFC
Bluetooth
ANT+
Wi-Fi
Compatibility
Android and iOS

Should you buy the Garmin Forerunner 965?

garmin forerunner 965 workout list
Ryan Haines / Android Authority

The Garmin Forerunner 965 is an eye-catching, but maybe not groundbreaking, update to one of the best running watches you can buy. It looks and feels more like a true smartwatch than ever before thanks to the vibrant AMOLED panel, and Garmin continues to offer battery life that runs marathons, while most smartwatches would settle for a 5k. Factor in Garmin’s excellent health tracking metrics and an olympiad’s worth of workout types, and it’s tough to find a better top-to-bottom wearable for an active lifestyle.

That said, I’ll miss a few of the Forerunner 955’s bygone features, like the solar charging ring and nearly limitless watch faces. The Forerunner 965’s $100 price bump is another pretty big sticking point — especially if you already have a Forerunner 955 on your wrist. If you have an older model like the Garmin Forerunner 945, it’s much easier to recommend an upgrade. After all, the Forerunner 945 was the last to miss out on advanced metrics like Training Readiness and HRV, which make it much easier to justify the $599 asking price if you’re a data junkie.

I'll miss a few legacy features, but the Garmin Forerunner 965 easily retains its place as one of the best running watches money can buy.

At the end of the day, however, not everyone needs a Garmin Forerunner 965. If you’re planning to stick to running routes you already know and have no intention of getting lost, the Forerunner 265 ($449.99 at Garmin) is better than it’s ever been. It still comes in two sizes to the Forerunner 965’s single size, and it added the same AMOLED panel to the mix. Garmin also brought its advanced metrics like Training Readiness to the Forerunner 265, bringing it even closer in line with the premium running crowd.

Of course, the Forerunner lineup as a whole is targeted at runners and other dedicated athletes. If you’re more interested in a Garmin smartwatch with just the basics of fitness — and ECG support — it’s hard to go wrong with the Venu 2 Plus ($449 at Amazon). The Venu 2 Plus also adds the ability to make and take calls, which is something that the Forerunner range has long stayed away from. You might also reach for the Venu 2 Plus if you’re after a slightly more stylish design, thanks to a textured band and shiny bezel.

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 965 review: FAQs

Yes, the Forerunner 965 comes with a 5ATM rating, which means it can withstand up to 50 meters of water pressure.

Yes, Garmin’s 5ATM rating means that you can swim without risking water damage. The Forerunner 965 also has several workout modes to detect swimming in different bodies of water.

Yes. As long as you link your Garmin Connect account to your Strava account, the Forerunner 965 will automatically sync your workouts.

The Forerunner 965 has 32GB of onboard storage for music and podcasts, though you’ll have to connect Bluetooth headphones in order to play your music.

Yes, you can shower with the Garmin Forerunner 965 due to its water resistance.

Yes, the Forerunner 965 tracks sleep and presents your overview as part of the morning report.

Yes, the Forerunner 965 supports GPS, GLONASS, and GALILEO.