Garmin Forerunner 965 vs Garmin Forerunner 265: Which is best?

Garmin Forerunner 965 vs 265
(Image credit: Future)

The Garmin Forerunner 965 and Forerunner 265 are two feature-packed multisports watches that also notably include AMOLED displays. So if you’ve been on the lookout for a sports watch that has the feel of a smartwatch, then these are definitely two options to search out. Both are fantastic sports tools, worthy of inclusion in our best running watches and best Garmin watches guides, so which one should you choose?

We’ve tested the 265 and the 965 and regard them as two of the top running watches you can buy right now, and it's definitely worth keeping an eye on the Black Friday Garmin deals to snap one up at a discount. So it’s understandable that you might be looking at both if you’re in the market for a new sports watch.

That’s why we’ve pulled together the key differences between the two and showing you what you gain or lose going for Forerunner 965 over Forerunner 265 and vice versa.

Garmin Forerunner 965 vs Garmin Forerunner 265: Specifications

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Component Garmin Forerunner 965Garmin Forerunner 265
Price$600 / £600 / AU$999$449 / £429 / AU$770
Dimensions47.1 x 47.1 x 13.2 (mm)46.1 x 46.1 x 12.9 (mm)
Weight52g47 g
Case/bezelTitanium bezel, plastic caseFibre-reinforced polymer
Display454 x 454 1.4-inch AMOLED touch416 x 416 px AMOLED, Corning Gorilla Glass
GPSGPS, Beidou, Glonass, Galileo, SatIQGPS, Beidou, Glonass, Galileo, SatIQ
Battery life23 days (31 hours GPS)13 days (20 hours GPS)
ConnectionBluetooth 5.2, ANT+, WiFiBluetooth 5.2, ANT+, Wi-Fi
Water resistant?Yes, 5ATMYes, 5ATM

Garmin Forerunner 965 vs 265: Price and availability

Garmin Forerunner 265

(Image credit: Future)

Both the Garmin Forerunner 965 and the 265 were announced and launched in March 2023 and are available directly through Garmin’s website as well as a host of other retailers. That includes Amazon, Best Buy and Argos.

The Forerunner 965 is the pricier of the two, coming in at US$599.99/£599.99/AU$999, while the Forerunner 265 and the 265s (which we tested) come in at $449/£429/AU$770, making it quite a step up in price from its predecessor, the Garmin Forerunner 255.

The Garmin Forerunner 265 is the cheaper of the two, so it wins out here, but you do get more for your money with the 965, including a titanium bezel and longer battery life. 

Winner: Garmin Forerunner 265

Garmin Forerunner 965 vs 265: Design and display

Garmin Forerunner 265S on wrist

(Image credit: Future)

The most obvious difference with the looks of the 965 and the 265 are the sizes. The 965 is the larger with a 47mm case. The 265 is actually the 265 and the 265s, as it comes in two size options. The 's' stands for small, with the 265s packing a 41mm case with the 265 getting a larger 46mm case. So that model is closer in stature to the 965.

On the 965, you’re getting a hit of titanium in the bezel while the 265 and 265s get lighter polymer. You’re also getting removable silicone straps across the three watches, though the way you can remove those straps does differ between the two watches. The 965 uses Garmin’s 22mm QuickFit straps, while the 265 series uses quick-release bands and as the name suggests, are quicker to remove.

Then we get to the displays. It’s AMOLED all around, the same sort of excellent screen featured on the Garmin Epix Pro, and those touchscreens can be set to stay always on. The resolutions and sizes of screens do differ though. The 965 has a larger 1.4-inch, 454 x 454-pixel resolution screen. The 265s has a smaller 1.1-inch, 360 x 360 display, while the 265 has a 1.3-inch, 416 x 416 resolution screen. While the resolutions differ, the pixels sit tighter in the smaller 265 and still do give you a great all-around experience in terms of bringing that splash of color.

The level of protection provided on that screen differs too. On the 965 you’ve got Corning’s Gorilla Glass DX while the 265 series packs Corning Gorilla Glass 3 to provide a guard against scratches.

If you want to go swimming with these watches, then you’re in luck. All three watches have a 5ATM-certified design, which means they’re safe to be submerged in water up to 50 meters depth.

Winner: Garmin Forerunner 965

Garmin Forerunner 965 vs Garmin Forerunner 265: Features

Garmin Forerunner 965

(Image credit: Future)

At the core, these watches are multisport watches with a strong slant on running. They cover the same core sports modes, which includes swimming (pool and open water), cycling and golf, but obviously really shine during running, with all kinds of advanced metrics such as the Training Readiness score and Garmin Coach training plans. 

They do share a lot of the same features, so you’re getting Garmin’s latest and very impressive multiband mode on both to improve outdoor tracking accuracy when tracking near tall buildings or highly wooded areas. Both include optical heart rate sensors and use Garmin’s Gen 4 Elevate sensor, which can additionally monitor blood oxygen saturation through that sensor array.

When you delve into the sports profiles supported, the 965 has a bit of an upper hand on the outdoor front. It offers profiles you won’t find on the 265 like backcountry skiing, kayaking, tennis, and pickleball. The 965 also covers gravel and road biking to offer more in the cycling profiles department, ideal for triathletes. 

One of the biggest areas that separates these watches is mapping and navigation. While you can upload routes and use breadcrumb-style navigation on all of these watches, the 965 also gives you preloaded road and trail Topographical maps (see above) to let you view detailed maps on the watch and make better use of that AMOLED display to show off that additional detail.

There are differences in the training department too where the 965 additionally offers additional features like heat and altitude acclimation and access to Strava Live Segments. Both crucially offer Garmin’s new Training Readiness feature, which leans on heart rate variability, sleep, and other metrics to help you understand when you should be training or taking a rest day and is a really useful feature to peer at each day.

Both can act like smartwatches and are compatible with Android and iOS. That gets you features like the ability to view notifications, Garmin Pay, access to Garmin’s Connect IQ Store and all include a built-in music player with support to store playlists for offline use from Spotify and Deezer. The 965 gives you more room than the 265 to store audio and apps with 32GB of storage compared to the 8GB storage on the 265 watches.

Winner: Garmin Forerunner 965

Garmin Forerunner 965 vs Garmin Forerunner 265: Performance & Battery Life

Garmin Forerunner 965

(Image credit: Future)

Garmin doesn’t tend to divulge the kind of processing packed into its watches but what we can say is that both run nice and slick. The touchscreens are responsive: you don't have to wait long for a GPS signal before starting your runs, and tracking on the whole is solid across these watches. 

Both can experience some slow downloading and installing times with apps while syncing music over will take some time as well. There are also some slightly laboring loading moments when using the mapping on the 965, especially when you need to move to another area of the map.

When it comes to battery life, these watches are designed to last for well over a week, but that entirely depends on how regularly you’re tracking your training, using smartwatch features, and using power-intensive sensors like the Pulse Ox sensor. If you factor in using the screens in always-on mode, that number drops further and is less than a week.

The 965 promises up to 23 days in smartwatch mode compared to the 13 days (265) and the 15 days (265s) promised on the 265 watches. If you decide to use the watches with the top GPS accuracy mode, then the 965 goes up to 19 hours and that drops to 14 or 15 hours on the 265 and 265s. Ultimately, with a mix of features and tracking in use, these watches can muster up a week of battery. Put the screen on 24/7 and the 965’s battery drops to under a week and up to 5 days on the 265 and 265s.

Winner: Garmin Forerunner 965

Garmin Forerunner 965 vs Garmin Forerunner 265: Conclusion

Garmin Forerunner 965 vs 265

(Image credit: Future)

These are two great multisport watches and running watches with high-quality AMOLED screens. While that AMOLED inclusion does lead to a bigger battery drop from Garmin’s transflective memory-in-pixel display watches (such as the Forerunner 955), both can still muster up pleasing battery life overall.

The Forerunner 265 is a fantastic sports watch with a core tracking experience that’s not far off what you get on the 965 albeit from a smaller form factor, so even though the 965 won the majority of the categories above, they're similar enough that you can opt for the 265 without much of a drop-off in quality. The big gains on the 965 are the fuller mapping features, the bigger storage available, and some additional sports profiles, mainly for more niche outdoor pursuits.

If you’re looking at these watches from a pure running basis, then the 265 is a great buy and gives you enough of what you get on the 965 to warrant saving some of your money.  If you want the best running watch Garmin has to offer, then it’s the 965 you want.

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Michael Sawh

Michael is a freelance journalist who has covered consumer technology for over a decade and specializes in wearable and fitness tech. Previously editor of Wareable, he also co-ran the features and reviews sections of T3, and has a long list of bylines in the world of consumer tech sites.

With a focus on fitness trackers, headphones, running wearables, phones, and tablet, he has written for numerous publications including Wired UK, GQ, Men's Fitness, BBC Science Focus, Metro and Stuff, and has appeared on the BBC Travel Show. Michael is a keen swimmer, a runner with a number of marathons under his belt, and is also the co-founder of YouTube channel The Run Testers.