The Garmin Forerunner 265 is a compelling alternative to the top watches in Garmin’s range, with a bright AMOLED display, accurate sports tracking, and training analysis that includes the company’s “readiness” rating. It’s more expensive than the Forerunner 255, which hopefully will stick around as a cheaper multisport option
- AMOLED display
- Training readiness rating
- Accurate sports tracking
- More expensive than Forerunner 255
- No maps
- Shorter battery life than 255
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The Garmin Forerunner 2X5 range has delivered some of the best running watches and the Garmin Forerunner 255 is a full multisport watch for triathletes, making it one of the best sports watches all-round. Central to its appeal has been value: the watches had some of Garmin’s best features but cost less than the likes of the Garmin Fenix 7 of Epix 2.
The Garmin Forerunner 265 is a small departure from that, because it is expensive, though after a week of testing I’d say it’s an excellent watch that offers almost all Garmin’s best features in an attractive package with a bright AMOLED display.
Garmin Forerunner 265 Review: Price And Availability
The Forerunner 265 is available from 2nd March 2023 and costs $449.99 in the US and £429.99 in the UK. There are two sizes of the watch which both cost the same and, unlike with the Forerunner 255, there is no cheaper watch available without the music storage feature. It’s a significant price rise on the Forerunner 255 Music, which costs $399.99/£349.99.
There are two major updates to the Forerunner 265 compared with the 255. The first is the new AMOLED touchscreen, which is brighter and more vibrant than the transflective memory-in-pixel display on the Forerunner 255. It is similar to a smartwatch display and every bit as enjoyable to look at and use as the AMOLED screen on the Epix 2, my favourite watch of 2022. The Forerunner 265 has a 1.3in (33mm) 416 x 416 display, while the Forerunner 265S has a 1.1in (28mm) 360 x 360 display.
Two concerns arise when switching to a sports watch with an AMOLED display. One is whether it will be visible in bright sunlight, and the other is battery life. I’ve had no problems with visibility with the Forerunner 255 so far, even on sunny days, and the battery life is still good: Garmin lists it at up to five days in smartwatch mode with the always-on screen enabled, or 15 days with raise-to-wake, and up to 24 hours of GPS tracking.
Those stats are for the smaller Forerunner 265S, which actually lasts longer than the 265 owing to having a smaller display. The Forerunner 265 drops to up to 13 days in smartwatch mode, and 20 hours of GPS-only tracking.
The other major addition to the Forerunner 265 is Garmin’s training readiness feature. This shows how ready you are to train at any time using a colour-coded graph based on factors like your recent training load, suggested recovery time, sleep history and heart rate variability status from your last night of sleep. I find it an excellent way to view all the training analysis on the watch in a condensed, practical stat, then you can dive in for more details if you want.
It’s disappointing that Garmin hasn’t brought training readiness to the Forerunner 255, so the Forerunner 265 is the cheapest watch in its range to have the feature. Previously, I considered it one of the big reasons to upgrade to Garmin’s top watches like the Forerunner 955 or Epix 2, so having it on the 265 at a lower price is a welcome development.
Another update is that the Forerunner 265 can measure some running dynamics like ground contact time and stride length from the wrist without the need for an accessory. Garmin has also changed the fonts on the watch and introduced several new watch faces to take advantage of the brighter display. It feels like a different watch from the Forerunner 255, even if the core tracking features remain the same.
Design And Hardware
Many elements of the Forerunner 265 remain the same as the Forerunner 255. It comes in two sizes, with the smaller Forerunner 265S offering a better fit for slim wrists, and it has five buttons to navigate menus, along with the touchscreen.
The watch has a barometric altimeter and Garmin’s most accurate GPS modes, including multi-band GPS. This reduces battery life but is more accurate than GPS-only tracking in tricky conditions, such as when under tree cover.
GPS And HR Accuracy
Across three runs and a strength session with the Forerunner 265, during which I’ve compared it with a Garmin Enduro 2 linked up with a chest strap, the watch has largely been accurate on heart rate. It had spikes during the runs, which were inaccurate, and missed some rises in my heart rate during the strength workout, or lagged behind the chest strap. Overall, it performed at a level I’d expect for an optical heart rate monitor.
The GPS tracking has also been reliable using the multi-band mode, and the tracks produced from my runs line up well with the Enduro 2 and the paths I actually took. There are wobbles that take me off where I ran, but the pacing on the watch has been consistent. I found it took longer to lock on to GPS at the start of runs than the Enduro 2, so will monitor that during my extended testing to see if it remains the case.
I will do more testing on both fronts for a longer-term review, but the Forerunner 265 performs as expected on GPS and heart rate accuracy. Given that the insights you get from the training readiness feature rely on accurate heart rate tracking during workouts, I’d lean towards using a chest strap.
While the Forerunner 265 has picked up most of the best features available on Garmin’s priciest watches now, one thing that remains exclusive to the Forerunner 955 (now Forerunner 965) is colour maps. You get breadcrumb trails on the Forerunner 265 and turn-by-turn directions for courses you load on it, as well as prompts if you stray off-course. While it’s not as good as maps, and Garmin’s watches with maps also get the excellent ClimbPro feature to guide you through climbs and descents on your route, breadcrumb trails get you safely through your routes and are easy to follow on the bright AMOLED screen.
In smartwatch mode, Garmin claims the battery life on the 265 is 13 days and on the 265S it is 15 days. When this is GPS-only GNSS mode, those figures change to 20 hours and 24 hours. I’ve had the always-on screen enabled and used the multi-band GPS mode throughout my testing of the Forerunner 265 but have not been able to connect it to my phone ahead of the launch, so it hasn’t been receiving notifications, which reduces battery life.
On my first charge the watch lasted five days, during which I did little outdoor activity while nursing a niggle. Second time around, since charging it to 100%, I have done one short outdoor run of around 20 minutes and a 25-minute indoor workout, and it’s now at 79%, so I’d expect battery life to drop to more like three to four days when I return to running every day for around an hour, especially with notifications coming in.
You can extend that battery life by enabling raise-to-wake for the screen or using a less intensive GPS mode. While it’s not as long-lasting as the Forerunner 255 – which reached five or six days for me using the smaller 255S – the battery life on the Forerunner 265 is solid and consistent given the bright display.
Is The Garmin Forerunner 265 Worth It?
The Garmin Forerunner 265 is loaded with great features and the new screen looks fantastic. If you don’t need maps or long battery life, I’d say it’s the best Garmin to go for, since it has all the most important features you find on the Epix 2, Forerunner 965 and Fenix 7 at a lower price.
It’s still expensive, though, and the price rise is a shame given that the Forerunner 255 also jumped in price last year compared with the 245. Hopefully, the older watches will stick around in Garmin’s range to be cheaper alternatives for those who aren’t fussed about the AMOLED display, although even then you miss out on the training readiness feature (which should have been added to the Forerunner 255).
That said, with the range as it is, the Forerunner 265 is a great option for those who want a brighter display in a smaller, more affordable watch. The Forerunner 265 is excellent, and bear in mind there’s still a big step up in price to the Forerunner 965 ($599.99/£599.99) if you want maps and an AMOLED display.
Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.
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