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Garmin Forerunner 965 Review – There's a new steel sheriff in town

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

3.3.2023 | 10 MIN

No one expected this super-model, and Garmin basically broke all of its rules by releasing this. Not even a year after releasing its last model, it came to market with this super-model Forerunner 965, which sets the bar so high that even Garmin itself will have problems climbing over it.

Yes and a thousand-times yes, the Garmin Forerunner 965 has an AMOLED display! The display of all the beautiful shining stars which can show all the pixels in detail. It's not only the AMOLED though. The whole menu changed, the graphics, and design. It's beautiful, but Garmin wouldn't be Garmin if it didn't pull out a new exercise feature from its sleeve, right?

That's why besides features that appeared last year, like wrist-based measuring watts, stamina, and other cool stuff, we get also wrist-based running dynamics!

Garmin Forerunner 955 review – Satisfied only with the best
Garmin Forerunner 955 review – Satisfied only with the best

It's become somewhat of a tradition that with the most high-tech model, we also get the middle-tech model. It is no different now. With the 965, Garmin is also releasing the Forerunner 265, which also comes with an AMOLED display.

And the differences between these two? Basically the same as they were within the previous generation. Well, the Forerunner 265 will offer also training readiness. But it's still missing maps, has less of a battery life, and is short of a metal bezel.

Steel city Forerunner

Forerunner – a notorious plastickie got face lifting, and it went really well. The first thing you'll notice is the steel bezel, which is in the whole life of the Forerunner line the first one. The steel is smooth, no engraving or detailing. The only decoration you can find are the known markings of the five buttons.


The buttons remained the same, except for the upper "action" button which is used to start an activity and confirm an action. This button is now oval while other buttons are still round. I really like the triangle detail which was kept and that pressing the buttons is much easier now thank to the new, elongated shape.

Although the case is still plastic, it is very different from the 955. Honestly, the 955 is basically a fat sibling of the sporty 965. Although the cases are both 46 mm / 1.81" in diameter, there is a difference in thickness. The older model was domed outward, the newer one is domed inward, and the new one is basically the more aerodynamical version.

As per usual, we can find the "Forerunner" logo on the side with two buttons and the same "inward" shape. The case back is covered in plastic and part of it is the HR sensor, which is the standard by now.

But what is not standard is the height of the watch. The 955 model is really high (14.6 mm / 0.57" not taking into account the sensor). The 965 are only 13.4 mm / 0.53" high, which makes the watch fit under any type of sleeve. For the strap design, they went into the past a little bit, more specifically to the FR 735 model, which had the double-coloured strap as the last one so far. It definitely has its charm and it seems that they changed the silicone material – magically, the strap fits so much better.

Garmin chose fixed attachment, so if you want a nylon or a QuickFit one, you need to take off the old one and keep only the pins.

Garmin Forerunner 255/255S Review – Loaded mid-price athlete
Garmin Forerunner 255/255S Review – Loaded mid-price athlete

As I said in the introduction, the watch is hella elegant and it has become one of the pieces you don't have to be ashamed of in a city. The overall weight of the model is a bit higher though – 60 g. But on wrist, it keeps in place as if it were glued, so I didn't mind the weight.

AMOLED for comfort every time

What I find weird is that AMOLED persuaded me of its great qualities when it's used in a model where it doesn't make sense to me. But that's the future, there's nowhere to run from it.

Besides the display's technology, also the side of the display changed. It is now 1.4", 454 x 454 pixels. The fact that AMOLED's readability is worse in direct sunlight is no longer true. During the testing, I didn't have any problems to read the display. Quite the opposite, I liked that I can read the data even through my shirt's sleeve.

Accuracy of SatIQ

The watch has a standard number of sensors – barometer, accelerometer, heart rate sensor, Dual-Band GNSS, pulse oximeter, compass, and thermometer. These are the sensors which every Garmin model and all higher-end watches of other brands have…

One thing that is true is that the HR measuring and GPS are very accurate. Even in colder weather, the HR sensor was only 1 unit off the value of the chest strap, which is an amazing performance. When the temperature was in the freezing degrees, the differences were bigger, but what watch doesn't have this problem.

Modrá – Hrudní pás Polar H10+, Fialová - Forerunner 965

Blue – Chest strap Polar H10+, purple - Forerunner 965

I also appreciate SatIQ, a feature which automatically selects GPS setting based on the strength of the signal. It is better for the battery life than to use the best settings all the time, and I also think that no one needs a more accurate location record than this feature gives you.

Modrá – Fenix 7X, fialová – Forerunner 965

Blue – Fenix 7X, purple – Forerunner 965

Less battery life because of the display? No!

Jokes aside, this watch made me believe that AMOLED displays are the option for the future and that they are not as harsh for the battery as they used to be. With the previous generation, my colleague Dominik and I shamed the battery life. 15 days is not that much. Especially since the watches had transflective displays.

Well, Garmin probably thought the same, and now we have a model with an unbelievable battery life, up to 23 days in smartwatch mode! In GPS mode, it lasts up to 31 hours with the display on, which is again unbelievable considering the type of display.

I put all similar models in this chart so that you may please your eye with the perfection that it is.

Garmin Forerunner 955
Garmin Forerunner 965
Garmin Epix
Smartwatch mode

23 days (13 days?)
16 days (6 days)
Battery saver 15 days
21 days
42 hrs
31 hrs
42 hrs (30 hrs)
All satellites


32 hrs (24 hrs)
All satellites (multi-frequency)
20 hrs

20 hrs (15 hrs)
All satellites + music
8.5 hrs

10 hrs (9 hrs)
GPS (maximum battery life priority)
80 hrs

14 days

That's basically a bargain!

To really know what's the deal with the battery, I ran a marathon with this watch. This is the graph of the battery life when compared with the Fenix 7X.

Fialová – FR 965, modrá – Fenix 7X

Blue – FR 965, purple – Fenix 7X

Looking at the numbers, of course the winner is the Fenix which needs 1.71 % per hour. The Forerunner need a bit more and it was not connected to my phone. But I did have the AMOLED on the whole time, and I saw the data 3x better than on the Fenix. I actually started to realise that the main advantage of AMOLEDs is that it saves energy when you're not exercising, when the watch isn't lit up. But since the watch should last around 31 hours in the GPS mode, I believe it can stand much more.

User environment for demanding customers

"Finally, someone at Garmin sat down to think about making a nice watch and a nice user environment!" said my colleague Filip, who likes Apple, so he wears the Apple Watch Ultra. I have to agree with him because this model's software is really a piece of Garmin art. The user environment follows the same logic as always. What's changed, or rather transformed, is the design and speed.

Garmin added some very pretty icons in widgets. Another detail added is that when selecting a widget, the colour of the whole row changes. It looks amazing, I like that.

What I also like is that this Forerunner shows inspiration from the highest-end models of the Marq line, the activities show a picture of the sport selected. You can also add a picture to the menu.

Transitions are not as harsh anymore. The display either "sweeps the screen to the side" and shows different set of data, or, when selecting an activity, dims the display and only then shows the activity.

Statistics or dynamics?

Static run is basically very illogical. But running dynamics, that's what we all want. We should have the correct form and it shouldn't hurt us. The Forerunner 965 can now tell you your running dynamics from your wrist – the watch can tell you what to do better than before!

I'm joking of course. Running dynamics can help you a lot with your form and help you push yourself as much as you can. More specifically, the watch measures ground contact time, cadence (watches knew how to do these ones before), and vertical oscillation.

Modrá – Stryd, fialová – FR 965

Ground contact time. Blue – Stryd, purple – FR 965

Watts the activity on the map

You could say that Garmin's more expensive models all have watts measuring, maps, and all the sport activities you can think of (let's not just think of activities where all you need is time, HR, and calories, please).

When it comes to maps, AMOLED is the best type of display to have. The map is nicely detailed and really looks as if straight from the net. There are also the same features, like route, navigation, etc. There's also the Next Fork feature, which was introduced in the Enduro 2 watch.

Garmin Enduro 2 Review – Music for my ears, maps for my feet
Garmin Enduro 2 Review – Music for my ears, maps for my feet

Watts are a great feature which Garmin started using quite recently. But I think that people got used to it very fast. It is a very useful piece of information. Mainly used to run faster since watts reacts faster than your heart rate, which can immediately help you to tell whether you're pushing yourself too much or not. For the curious people, here is a picture comparing the STRYD (which is probably the most accurate running wattmeter available) and Garmin.

Modrá - STRYD, fialová – FR 965

Purple – STRYD, blue – FR 965

We can see that the STRYD line is a bit more up and down, but the difference is not that great.

Training readiness, training status, race calendar

Although we've encountered these features with the Fenix 7x and the Epix 2, it is nice to refresh our memories.

Training readiness evaluates your efforts from the past few days, your sleep, regeneration time, your HRV, short-term load, sleep history, stress, and gives you a number from 0 to 100. If you get 100, you are fully regenerated and can go out and do your best and most. If you get less, Garmin will tell you what to do and if you should train at all. It is a nice helper for beginners so that they do not burn out. For me, I sometimes look at sleep history and HRV to see whether my situation is at least somewhat "decent".

35: Readiness is low. Listen to your body.

Training status evaluates your efforts from a different point of view. It takes into consideration the productivity of your workout – short-time load, VO2 Max (whether it goes up or down), heart zone (aerobic/anaerobic), HRV status, and regeneration. This feature is actually pretty fun.

Training status: conditioning.

And since I've already mentioned races, it is a good idea to keep a list of them somewhere. So why not have it on your watch? You can use the upcoming race calendar, where you can type in all your races for the year, and the watch even counts down till the day of the race. You can also set one "Primary race". Garmin will then advise you on how to train for this race and give you time predictions for it. This all is based on a GPX file you upload, so don't forget to do that!

Training readiness: conditioning.

What's a bummer is that the watch is not able to take into account race elevation. I'm not sure how it even reaches the prediction. For now, my primary race is the 100 Miles of Istria, which is 110 km / 68.4 miles to run, and the elevation gain is around 3900 m / 2.43 miles. Garmin says I should run this course in 7 hours and 24 minutes, which would not be possible even for Kílian Jornet himself…

Smart and fitness features are the same

Notifications, music, maps, card payment… Besides calling (which is available only using the Venu 2 Plus) the watch can satisfy all your needs and doesn't miss anything important.

It is very similar with fitness features, there's basically nothing to spark a big discussion about. The watch has the essentials: HR, steps, sleep, SpO2, stress, now also HRV at night or Body Battery. There have been some rumours that the 965 should know how to do EKG, however, from what we know, the case back would have to be metal and have a special ring around the HR sensor, which the watch doesn't unfortunately have.

Personally, this is all a sporty person needs and what will make the watch a great assistant also for your daily non-exercise life.

All eyes on AMOLED

As I've already mentioned, AMOLED is basically the future which we will encounter more and more when it comes to watches. Whether the transflective display disappears entirely, I cannot say, but its popularity will definitely lower as the interest in pretty colours will rise. The Forerunner 965 is the first model of this line with the AMOLED technology. It might hint at that we will see this type of display more and more.

Zavodní test pro Forerunner 965

A race test for the Forerunner 965

There is nothing negative to say about this watch, from the battery life to the display. I am very content with the practicality of the 965 and the accessibility of Forerunners for more people than ever before. I just hope they step up the wrist-based running dynamics to give the best results and analysis.

It would be hard to find a watch with similar equipment, but I think that the Epix 2 should get some new features after an update, and then a good alternative would be this outdoor beast. If you don't mind lower battery life, you can also opt for the Apple Watch 8 or Ultra.

What are your thoughts on the display and new features?