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Garmin Forerunner 965 Review

For pure running, there is no better series than the Forerunner, and the 965 performs excellently by offering a beautiful screen and longer battery life
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Garmin Forerunner 965 Review
Credit: Garmin
Price:  $600 List
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Manufacturer:   Garmin
By Matthew Richardson ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Jul 3, 2024
83
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#4 of 16
  • Accuracy - 30% 9.3
  • Activity Use - 20% 8.0
  • Everyday Use - 15% 8.0
  • Extra Features - 15% 8.5
  • Wearability - 10% 9.0
  • Battery Life - 10% 5.1

Our Verdict

If you're into running, then the Forerunner series is tailor-made for you. The Garmin Forerunner 965 stands out as one of the most lightweight yet fully loaded watches we've put through its paces, matching up with other premium models at the peak of the market. A new AMOLED display makes navigation easier due to the rich colors and bold text. With cutting-edge health metrics and a suite of sensors, this watch offers everything you need for both training and day-to-day tracking. For ultra-athletes seeking durability and marathon battery life, a more rugged model might be preferable. Check out our review of the best GPS watches to see how it ranks versus others.
REASONS TO BUY
Bright display
Slim design
Lightweight
Great for running
REASONS TO AVOID
Expensive
AMOLED lacks MIP performance
Lacks real flashlight

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Bottom Line The 47mm case size offers great readability, and the slim design makes it feel featherweight on your wristEase of use and accuracy make this one of the best watches we've ever testedGreat craftsmanship and design with an updated UI, menu, and AMOLED displayThis watch excels as an affordable GPS companion, offering value and dependable accuracySerious athletes should opt for a larger screen so their data is more easily readable, but for the basics, this is a decent option
Rating Categories Garmin Forerunner 965 Garmin Fenix 7 Pro... Suunto Race Coros Pace 3 Fitbit Charge 6
Accuracy (30%)
9.3
9.3
9.3
9.0
7.0
Activity Use (20%)
8.0
9.0
8.5
7.5
4.0
Everyday Use (15%)
8.0
9.0
7.5
7.0
7.0
Extra Features (15%)
8.5
9.0
6.5
5.0
7.0
Wearability (10%)
9.0
10.0
9.5
7.5
7.0
Battery Life (10%)
5.1
7.7
6.3
5.4
4.0
Specs Garmin Forerunner 965 Garmin Fenix 7 Pro... Suunto Race Coros Pace 3 Fitbit Charge 6
Measured Main Body Size (Diameter) 47.2 mm 47 mm 49.0 mm 41.9 mm 23.1 mm
Measured Thickness 13.2 mm 14.5 mm 13.3 mm 11.8 mm 11.2 mm
Measured Screen Width 35.4 mm 33.0 mm 36.0 mm 31.0 mm 20.o mm
Measured Weight 1.90 oz 2.90 oz 2.93 oz 1.50 oz 1.30 oz
Screen Type AMOLED MIP AMOLED MIP AMOLED
Measured Charging Time 99 min 150 min 84 min 113 min 120 min
Battery Life Claims by Manufacturer Smartwatch mode; Up to 23 days
GPS-Only Mode without Music: 31 hours
Smartwatch: Up to 18 days/22 days with solar
Battery Saver Watch Mode: Up to 57 days/173 days with solar
GPS Only: Up to 57 hours/73 hours with solar
All Satellte Systems: Up to 40 hours/48 hours with solar
All Satellite Systems + Multi-band: Up to 23 hours/26 hours with solar
All Satellite Systems + Music: Up to 10 hours
Max Battery GPS: Up to 136 hours/289 hours with solar
Expedition GPS: Up to 40 days/74 days with solar
In time mode: 26 days
With 24/7 Tracking and Mobile Notifications: 12 days
Training Mode with GPS: 40h / 50h / 70h / 120h
Full GPS: 38 hours - 10 hours with music; All Systems On: 25 hours - 9 hours with music; Dual Frequency: 15 hours - 7 hours with music; Daily Use: 17 days - 15 days with daily stress monitors Smartwatch mode: up to 7 days
Measured Battery Life with GPS 29 hours 75 hours 50 hours 34 hours 8 hours
Sensors Included Heart rate, altimeter, barometer, compass, temperature, blood oxygen level Heart rate, altimeter, barometer, compass, temperature, blood oxygen level Heart rate, altimeter, barometer, compass, blood oxygen level Heart rate, altimeter, barometer, compass, blood oxygen level Heart rate, temperature, blood oxygen level
Navigation Detailed, back to start Detailed, back to start Detailed, back to start Breadcrumb, back to start None
Music Options Control, storage Control, storage Control only Downloaded control, storage Control only
Touchless Payment Yes Yes No No Yes
Sleep Tracking Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Water Resistance (Max Depth) 50m 100m 100m 50m 50m
Main Software App Garmin Connect Garmin Connect Suunto Coros App Fitibt App
Compatible with Other Software Ecosystems Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Watch Face Material Corning Gorilla Glass 3 DX Power glass Sapphire crystal Mineral Glass Glass
Battery Type Rechargable lithium ion Rechargable lithium ion Rechargable lithium ion Rechargable lithium ion Rechargable lithium ion
Bezel Material Titanium Stainless steel Stainless steel Glass fiber reinforced polyamide Aluminum
Case Material Glass fiber reinforced polyamide Fiber reinforced polymer Glass fiber reinforced polyamide Glass fiber reinforced polyamide Resin
Strap Material Silicone Silicone Silicone Silicone Silicone and aluminum
Tools Required to Change Band No No No No No
Model Tested Standard Pro Solar Stainless steel Standard Standard
Size Tested One size only 47 mm One size only One size only One size only
Warranty Offered 1 year 1 year 2 year 2 year 1 year

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Garmin Forerunner 965 is built with running in mind. Its lightweight, slim design feels featherweight on the wrist. The Forerunner is built for everything from the city to the trail, and its battery life should last for days to weeks, depending on your configuration. Ultra athletes should consider if they plan to go over 24 hours of GPS recording time. This is a group where this watch may not be sufficient.

Performance Comparison


garmin forerunner 965 - the forerunner 965 is the first premium forerunner series with an...
The Forerunner 965 is the first premium Forerunner series with an AMOLED display. It still remains a top option for pure running due to its lightweight slim design.
Credit: Matthew Richardson

Accuracy


Accuracy scores were found for each watch by testing the GPS chipset and heart rate sensor accuracy. For the GPS test, we wore each watch on a track that was known to be 2.8 miles, then compared the watch readings to that distance. For the heart rate test, we wore a watch on each wrist and ran 0.5 miles, comparing the watches' readings to the Polar H10 chest strap, known for its scientific accuracy. These results were used to find an overall accuracy score. All GPS tests were conducted on the same day to allow for similar weather conditions, and the watches were worn with the same snugness to maintain a controlled fit for heart rate measurements. We then synchronized the data by matching timestamps to ensure a fair comparison between the chest-worn heart rate monitor and the GPS watch.

The Garmin Forerunner 965 was one of our highest-performing accuracy models. Measuring +/- 0.05 miles during our GPS testing, this provided one of the most accurate tracks. The heart rate accuracy was also impressive, with only a difference of +/-0.76 BPM. This new watch from Garmin has all of the latest sensors, so we aren't surprised it's one of the best in our lineup.

garmin forerunner 965 - heart rate analysis between the garmin forerunner 965 and the polar...
Heart rate analysis between the Garmin Forerunner 965 and the Polar H10 chest strap.
Credit: Matthew Richardson

Activity Use


The Forerunner 965 is built for performance, and if you're a runner, we'd highly recommend this model. While not as rugged as other models in this price range, it's one of the lightest and slimmest in our lineup. This watch contains all you need for a great workout or adventure.

The 47mm case looks great for many different data fields, and the AMOLED display is easy to read in a variety of lighting conditions. For runners looking to run over 24 hours, we'd opt for a different model because you will be on the verge of the battery's GPS ability. This is a major downside of the AMOLED display, as the previous MIP version had over 40 hours of battery life. This is something to take into consideration if you often run ultra distances.

garmin forerunner 965 - heavier models can make fast arm movements feel heavy, not with the...
Heavier models can make fast arm movements feel heavy, not with the Forerunner 965 and its featherweight design.
Credit: Matthew Richardson

The 965 has all of the latest navigation features from Garmin and supports turn-by-turn and detailed maps. These look great on the AMOLED display, and the smaller text is easier to read than on the MIP models. This is the main benefit of the bright and dense pixel count. While we don't love using the watch for complex navigation, it's great for navigating turns on less familiar trails. For big-picture navigation, we still prefer our phone.

The dedicated buttons and touchscreen make it easy to utilize many features of the watch while on the move. We like operating our data pages with the buttons, but if you prefer swipes, that option is available to you. Garmin also includes many different metrics for various sports and the many sport modes that are offered. For the full list, we'd recommend checking out the manufacturer's product page.

garmin forerunner 965 - the new amoled display looks great during activities, and the...
The new AMOLED display looks great during activities, and the brightness makes it easy to read in a variety of conditions.
Credit: Matthew Richardson

Everyday Use


At the premium end of our spectrum, you can expect this GPS watch to tackle all of your daily health-tracking needs. Garmin provides an exceptional number of health metrics and features, which is great if you like digging into charts and data. For us, we are most committed to analyzing our sleep, HR, and stress/performance levels.

Garmin does an excellent job of tracking sleep and providing an easy-to-digest score at the end of each morning with the wake-up widget. This also includes helpful statistics like weather, stress, and body battery. We've found this accurately represents our sleep and how we feel waking up. Daily stats are also easily accessible within the widget screen for items like steps, calories, floors climbed, recovery, and more.

garmin forerunner 965 - the garmin connect app has been recently updated for an...
The Garmin Connect app has been recently updated for an easier-to-read home screen. It gives a comprehensive look at your health and workout data.
Credit: Matthew Richardson

All of these metrics and the ability to customize the watch are done through the phone companion app Garmin Connect. This app was redesigned in May of 2024 and now looks even better while providing easy access to your latest workouts, health stats, and training plans.

By pairing your phone to the Forerunner 965, you can push your notifications to the watch, answer phone calls, or see messages while in an activity. There are also handy features like find my phone or find my watch, which helps quickly locate nearby lost items.

We often talk about Garmin as a whole because the ecosystem overlaps with many of the devices we test. Their use of glances (widgets) has been adopted by most of the competition, and Garmin's toolbar is a great way to easily access many different settings. By holding down the light button, you can see a wide range of quick access settings.

garmin forerunner 965 - we love how easily the toolset is accessed, just by holding the...
We love how easily the toolset is accessed, just by holding the light button.
Credit: Matthew Richardson

Extra Features


With Connect IQ, you have the ability to add third-party custom apps to many watches in the Garmin lineup, including the Forerunner 965. This only adds to the feature-rich experience that comes with a Garmin. Personally, we didn't find many of these apps to fill in any gaps that are missing, but there are options for you to tailor your experience.

The Garmin Forerunner 965 has all of the latest software features from Garmin, unfortunately this model does not contain a real flashlight which is bit of a bummer considering the premium price and recent release.
Credit: Matthew Richardson

The most premium watches in our test group are starting to be released with dedicated flashlights or red modes. Unfortunately, with this upgrade, the Forerunner 965 didn't receive a flashlight, which is a bit of a bummer at this price point. Still, it probably would have increased the weight and thickness, potentially reducing the appeal of this ultralight model.

Today's smartwatch GPSs have hundreds of features, and there is no way we can discuss every point without making this article painfully long. Our goal is to share an overview of each watch and dial in deeper to specific standout features or those that are missing when compared to the competition. We'd recommend checking out the manufacturer's website for the full feature list.

garmin forerunner 965 - training load, body battery, and endurance scores can all be helpful...
Training load, body battery, and endurance scores can all be helpful to analyze and understand your training. These can help you know when to push hard or when to take a day off.
Credit: Matthew Richardson

Wearability


We really like the physical design of the Forerunner 965, and it even looks better now with the metal bezel. The model looks more elegant and premium without changes to its weight or feel on the wrist. The metal buttons have a good feel and provide sureness when running or doing higher-level activities.

garmin forerunner 965 - slim and fully featured, we were impressed with how lightweight and...
Slim and fully featured, we were impressed with how lightweight and small the Forerunner 965 is.
Credit: Matthew Richardson

The removable tooless straps are great, provide good comfort, and are made of high-quality materials. The dual colorway adds a nice touch of style. This slim model works well with a variety of clothes; mainly, we had no issues with gloves or jackets because of the thin profile. The ability to turn off the touchscreen is nice to reduce accidental touches. This is a must-have for winter sports, where your gloves and coat will often interact with the watch.

Unfortunately, we are very bummed by the loss of the MIP display, with Garmin opting for the AMOLED instead. It simply looks worse, in our opinion, and the optional always-on display takes a big hit to battery life. The performance of this display doesn't seem to match their standard MIP, but, interestingly, it's more frequently implemented. Sure, the colors pop and the definition of the lettering is a bit better, but the overall experience with AMOLED feels a bit more in your face; we prefer the more subdued MIP.

garmin forerunner 965 - the debate between amoled and mip continues, we prefer mip for it's...
The debate between AMOLED and MIP continues, we prefer MIP for it's always on display and amazing battery life. If you prefer brightness and clarity in your text then we'd say go for AMOLED.
Credit: Matthew Richardson

Battery Life


We achieved 29 hours of GPS-only recording with the display set to the lowest level. For normal daily use, we achieved 20 days. For the always-on display mode set to the lowest level, we achieved roughly six days; we found the lowest brightness level to be more than bright enough to provide the normal watch look without being distracting. This battery life should be great for most users; for the ultra athletes, we'd recommend sticking with an MIP display, which offers better battery performance.

garmin forerunner 965 - navigation features are easy to use thanks to the touchscreen, by...
Navigation features are easy to use thanks to the touchscreen, by also offering dedicated buttons Garmin allows the user to use what they like best. We love this about the Garmin lineup.
Credit: Matthew Richardson

Should You Buy the Garmin Forerunner 965?


If you're an athlete looking to perform in events under 25 hours, we recommend the Forerunner 965. The introduction of the AMOLED display reduced the battery life by quite a bit, even more so if you plan on using the always-on display. The 965 is a sleek, slim package that offers everything you need, but expect to tend to the battery more than other options at this price point. If you're coming from an older model or a smartwatch, you will probably be more than impressed with the battery life.

garmin forerunner 965 - the garmin forerunner 965 is an excellent running companion because...
The Garmin Forerunner 965 is an excellent running companion because of its sleek design and light weight.
Credit: Matthew Richardson

What Other GPS Watches Should You Consider?


For roughly 50 hours of battery life with an AMOLED display, check out the Suunto Race. For runners looking for multi-day battery life, you will want a non-AMOLED display. We'd recommend upgrading to the Fenix 7 Pro Solar. For a less pricey option with great battery life, you should also consider the Coros Apex Pro 2.

garmin forerunner 965 - we hope this review made your decision making process easier...
We hope this review made your decision making process easier regarding the Forerunner 965 pictured here.
Credit: Matthew Richardson

Matthew Richardson