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Garmin Forerunner 265 Review – To Greatness and Above!

Tags: Review | Garmin | Men's | Women's | Smart

2.3.2023 | 9 MIN

It is not so long ago that Garmin charmed us with its genius Forerunner 255. It was and still is a blockbuster among sport smartwatches, but Garmin said that it is still not good enough. And so Garmin released the Forerunner 265, which, besides having an AMOLED displays, uses the new wrist-based running dynamics and other new sporty features.

The Forerunner 255 has been available for not even a year now, and my opinions still stands – it is the best sport smartwatch when it comes to the performance/price ration. Well… It used to stand still, but that was before Garmin released the Forerunner 265, which brings exciting features like:

  • brand new design,
  • AMOLED display,
  • Training Readiness feature,
  • running dynamics without the need of a chest strap or a pod,
  • new user environment,
  • wrist-based measurement of watts,
  • only one music player version.

Design – is it a step forward or backward?

When it comes to design, we have to decide whether it is innovative or rather going back to the roots. Experienced Garmin fans most likely remember the roots, the original design of the Forerunner line (like the 735XT for example), and we have to be honest here, the models looked very nice. To me, the Forerunner 265 seems like a reincarnation of the 735XT design. I don't mind that one bit since I've always liked that look.

On the side of the case, there is the standard number of five buttons. The START/STOP button is now oval, not round. Your goal, and the goal of the watch, is written on it – RUN. I'm not saying that it is completely wrong, but since this watch will end up in hands of people doing other sports than running, this gesture might not always be welcome. For me, I would prefer if Garmin used its neutral START/STOP.

Yes, I'm aware that the line is called Forerunner, which basically determins its own end consumers… but do people wear the Under Armour brand under armour?

The case is a bit thinner, and I have to admit that the watch weighs basically nothing, so you don't feel it on your wrist. The Forerunner 265 comes in two versions, one with the size of the case diameter of 46 mm / 1.81", one smaller with the size of 42 mm / 1.65". The size choices are great because everyone will find one that fits.

The strap is a double one. The outer side is a different colour than the inner side, which is always black. From the practical point of view, there is probably no reason for it. Other than that it looks good. The black colour can be seen through the holes. At the end of the strap, there is a black piece with "RUN" written on it. Tiny bit of a design element that makes you wanna smile. Oh and it even makes you rhyme apparently. This is a placement where it makes sense to me. You don't run? You can always change the strap. The strap is attached using the Quick-Release system.

You see, I was never a fan of plastic pieces. I myself am a wearer of the metal Tactix 7 model,  but it seems that as the time goes, producers get better and better at working with plastic. The Forerunner 265 is completely made out of plastic, but it looks very good. I had the chance to test the turquoise version, and for the first time ever, the colour looked like a true unisex element. It's probably since the colour is a bit darker. For example, the unisex turquois Forerunner 745 just doesn't cut it. Or, well, the Neo Tropic.

Does the AMOLED display make sense with a watch for running?

If you asked me this question 2 years ago, I would have probably said no. But today? I think the opposite.

AMOLED and OLED displays used to have problems with readability in direct sunlight. Back then, transflective LCD displays made more of a sense since these use sunlight as their own backlight. Today, the contrast and backlight of an AMOLED display is at such level that direct sunlight is no longer a problem. In addition, the sensor is so sensitive that the display light up within half a second whenever I turn my hand to look at the watch.

Also, the speed of technological advancement is great, and I got bored of the faint transflective display. I wanna see pretty colours. And it is more practical since the AMOLED's readability is much better thanks to the better contrast and resolution. Which is great for people with worse eyesight. I know personally many people who had to leave the Garmin family because they couldn't read the data on the displays.

So, if Garmin was to release a Tactix model with an AMOLED display… I would not hesitate to buy it.

Sleep analysis – deep sleep, light sleep, REM, awake

The colourful AMOLED is combined very nicely with the new user interface. Not only did the designers change it slightly, but they also added some "cherry on top", like animation when choosing a widget, pictures of people doing every sport activity (a runner for running, a cyclist for cycling, etc.). If I have to be honest, I think that Garmin finally has a user environment which is adequate to contemporary phone time (which prioritizes UX – User Experience), and not the computer times, when Garmin was created.

When you for example start an activity, you can see the picture of the exercising person for about two seconds, then you see a green triangle, and then the watch smoothly shows the data fields of your activity. It is just a small detail, but it completely changes your user experience.


The sensor equipment is a standard of Garmin's by now – accelerometer, barometer, gyroscope, compass, pulse oximeter, heart rate sensor and GPS.

For runners or people doing any other sport, the most important is probably the HR sensor and GPS, so I'm going to mostly talk about these two.

The heart rate sensor? Great. Garmin used the good 'old' Elevate 4. I'm not saying that it's perfect (well… what optical sensor it?), but it is very good at the minimum. In temperature above 0 °C / 32 °F, the watch measured my HR very well, and the difference with the data of the chest strap was only 1 beat. During freezing weather, the difference was somewhat bigger, but I understand that. It is a common problem of optics. When it's freezing, raining, or you're on a rough path or your hands are sweating too much, it might cause problems for any optical sensor.

Modrá – hrudní pás, fialová – Forerunner 265

Blue – chest strap, purple – the Forerunner 265

And how was that compared to the chest strap? I got this data during the optics-friendly weather, so I wouldn't be afraid to train without a chest strap.

The basic GPS setting is using SatIQ, which is a new feature. The watch automatically chooses the most suitable satellite setting to save battery. This means that if the GPS signal is enough, it will keep only this one on. But if the signal get worse, it will choose more satellites. And if the GPS signal is a disaster, it will choose multiband. As of right now, I would say that when it comes to location, Garmin is the best on the market. The Forerunner 265 confirms this.

Compared with my Tactix set to the best setting possible (all satellites multiband):

Modrá – Tactix 7, fialová – Forerunner 265

Blue – the Tactix 7, purple – the Forerunner 265

13 days? AMOLED is getting better

The battery life in the smartwatch mode is around 13 days. Of course, when it comes to this type of display, it also depends on how long you're gonna have lit up or, God forbid, whether you go as far as choosing Always-On display. In the GPS mode, the battery life should be around 20 hours, but to be honest, I wrote this article before official release so I am not sure yet whether that is true when having the best setting possible on or only GPS. I think that it is the first option, before for it to be only GPS, 20 hours is awfully little. I will update this article after release.

Training readiness? I'm ready for that one

Yes, Garmin made me so happy by adding the Training readiness feature. Personally, I believe that this feature is probably the best lifestyle slash sports feature released by Garmin in the past year. That's because this feature takes into account sleep, regeneration time, your HRV, load from past week, sleep history and stress history, and then serves you a simple number from 0 to 100 on a silver platter. This number shows how ready you are for training that day, and sets daily recommended training accordingly. Could it even be any simpler?

I feel that many people have problems with listening to their body or at least guessing how much they need to train, and this method seems like one of the most straightforward ones.

Garmin is the second brand after Apple to add wrist-based running dynamics

Running dynamics is important. Many people don't even look at it, but it will probably help you more than you might think. It will make your run more economical. The watch has been able to measure your cadence and stride length for some time now, but when it was about the vertical oscillation, ground contact time and the ratio between these two? Garmin knew how to measure that only using chest strap or a pod. If you're not familiar with these values, I would recommend the article below.

Apple Watch to get advanced running metrics and wattage measuring
Apple Watch to get advanced running metrics and wattage measuring

Not everyone wants to run with a chest strap or a pod or even pay for more and more equipment. So now, that issue is solved. But I do have to admit that there are some substantial deviation using this feature. That is understandable because equipment measures the values being stuck on a firm point either on your chest or your clothes. On the other hand, a watch has to measure while being fastened to a moving hand.

For example, the difference in vertical oscillation was in single digits (usually just one), but I firmly believe that it is only the first algorithm which will get better with time. Also looking at the structure of graph, we can see that it is very similar.

Modrá – hrudní pás, fialová – Forerunner 265

Blue – chest strap, purple – the Forerunner 265

The graph above shows running on a flat surface, but let's compare that with running up a hill and back. There are more obstacles then and a difficult terrain, so the data is very different now.

Modrá – hrudní pás, fialová – Forerunner 265

Blue – chest strap, purple – the Forerunner 265

All the Garmin essentials in the Forerunner 265

The Forerunner 265 is kind of a breakthrough model which has basically all advanced training features. It measures your regeneration time, tells you your training status (so if you are or are not productive) or it can offer navigation by track. All you need to do is upload a GPX file or create a track in the Garmin Connect app. All these are the features you can't find in older/cheaper Forerunner models.

Regeneration is as important as the workout itself

Besides activity features, Garmin makes me happy also by its offer of lifestyle or "after-workout" features. Recently, I've been mostly looking at my nightly HRV, which shows a graph of your HRV, and a weekly summary.

During the day, the watch shows the HRV as your stress level on the scale of 0 to 100. Based on your stress, sleep, and history of activities, it also shows your Body Battery. This number expresses how charged your body is on the scale of 0 to 100. Using the same scale, the watch is able to display quality of your sleep and timeline of sleep stages (light, heavy, REM).

Measuring your heart rate frequency happens all day, every second, while also counting your steps all day, passively and actively burned calories, and you may also measure blood oxygenation. However, I wouldn't recommend that as it uses up a ton of battery life.

Only with Music

It's become standard that models get two versions – one Music version, one without music. This time, Garmin let go of this tradition and every model will come with a music player. I don't see anything wrong with that as a music player is not something one would be strongly against for it to be in a watch. Although it is a bit of a pity that Garmin doesn't offer a more affordable version for people who will not take advantage of this feature.

Every piece also comes with contactless payment method and all the basic essentials like an alarm clock, alarm, find my phone, Connect IQ, etc. I was also happy to see that the Forerunner 265's dials are something new and unprecedented.

How is the Forerunner 265 and is the Forerunner 965 worth it?

The Forerunner 265 is simply amazing. If you wanted to know an alternative in the field of smart sport watches with the price being around 450 EUR, I've got nothing. This model is filled with Garmin smart features and key features from the bottom of the caseback to the brim of the glass. Yes, it doesn't offer maps. But honestly, were you even going to use them? The battery life is great, the display blew my mind, the watch itself looks attractive. That's all I can say, folks.

The key question is, who should pay a bit more and buy the Forerunner 965? If you know that maps are a must for you, it's clear. Opt for the FR 965. But in any other case, I dare to say that for the majority of us, the Forerunner 265 is more than enough. And you will not regret your decision.