Garmin Forerunner 965: One minute review
This is the watch that takes one of the best Apple watch features and adds it to Garmin – that stunning AMOLED display. Yet, this manages to offer at least five days more battery life than almost any of the other competition with the same display.
To be clear, this model comes as a screen upgrade following the release of the very similar Forerunner 955, nine months before. So while the upgrades from that to this aren't huge, it's worth noting that the model was a near-perfect jump forward anyway. Add this screen and it's a real heavy hitter. Garmin also released the Forerunner 265 alongside this model, also packing an AMOLED screen but at a lower price point.
For anyone who wants one of the best multisport watches you can buy, the 965 is – as you can see from the star rating – where it's at. As such the price is representative of what you get, meaning it's high.
For what you get this justifies that cost, as this review will clarify. In short, it's got astonishing battery performance, a beautiful display, super accurate location and heart rate tracking plus lots of other smart metrics including new running dynamics without the need for an extra sensor. This is one of the best Garmin watches, so is this the ultimate sports watch?
Garmin Forerunner 965: Specifications
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Garmin Forerunner 965: Price and Availability
£600 in the UK
$600 in the US
AU$999 in Australia
The Garmin Forerunner 965 is definitely one of the more expensive options from the company but that's because it comes packing all the best features rolled into one wonder device. As such you're looking at a price of US$600 / £600 / AU$999.
Of course these are the at-launch prices, so you can expect these to drop as new models come out. It's also worth taking sales into consideration as you can often find deals on even the best Garmin models during these times.
That said, you may find that the Garmin Forerunner 955, which is nearly identical aside from that screen upgrade, can be had at a cheaper price. And if you go for the 955 Solar you'll get a bit more out of your battery performance too.
Value score: 4/5
Garmin Forerunner 965: Design and screen
1.4-inch AMOLED display
Comfy silicone strap, 22mm QuickFit compatible
The Garmin Forerunner 965 is all about that superb 1.4-inch AMOLED display which looks superb. It's not only rich with colors and crisp definition between light and dark, but it also has a fantastic 454 x 454-pixel resolution, plus it's super bright.
All that equates to a screen you can read in any light or situation – including underwater – with lots of data at a glance. You can also activate the always-on display and since this is super low energy consuming that won't even affect battery life much.
Plus it's all coated in a Gorilla Glass DX outer layer which should mean it stays scratch-free too. In our months of using this, including throwing it in bags, there's not a mark on it.
Upgraded from the previous generation is the bezel too, which is now made of lightweight and hardy titanium. This is the metal they put in your body if you have an operation – as it's so nonreactive and won't be affected by moisture – meaning this should stay in perfect condition longer than you're alive.
The strap comes in three options Amp Yellow/Black, Black/Powder Grey, or Whitestone/Powder Grey. In all cases, there is a double clasp, malleable and comfy silicone strap and it can be swapped out as it uses the Garmin 22mm QuickFit system.
Since everything is waterproof to 50 meters it's also super simple to give it a clean by washing under the tap or in the shower – which in reviewing for months was found to keep it looking as good as new.
Design score: 5/5
Garmin Forerunner 965: Features
Heart Rate Variability
The Garmin Forerunner 965 crams in nearly all the best features developed over the years, making this a powerhouse of a sports watch. That means it'll track most sports, with over 30 including triathlon and multisport-specific tracking with one-touch transitions. But it does all this with lots and lots of data.
Of course, you have the ever-impressive accuracy of the Garmin when it comes to multi-GNSS GPS but this also packs in heart rate monitoring which offers Heart Rate Variability, VO2 Max, stress tracking, sleep tracking, all-day HR tracking, and more.
All that means lots of data to work with, not only while training, but also to help advise when you need to rest and even make suggestions on workouts to hit goals. This includes last year's Training Readiness score, recovery times, workload readouts, race predictions (a nifty running feature that uses your training to predict what time you'll get during a marathon, half-marathon, 10k etc), and more.
That's a whole list of features and it can seem overwhelming, but the watch and Garmin Connect app do feed it to you in a way that is helpful. You can then decide to add more data or strip it back as needed to suit your workout style and goals.
You also have some great day-to-day functionality with contactless pay, onboard Spotify music, offline maps, find my phone, flashlight screen feature, sleep tracking, step tracking and plenty more to be found in the IQ App Store. This isn't comparable to Apple or Android app stores, so don't expect full smartwatch functionality. But it's enough to keep you focused while also being alerted when needed.
Everything can be organized well, and that means moving icons about on your watch or using folders, but also in data screens when training. Everything can be made bespoke, even the clock face, to suit what data you need to see. Plus you've now got more data options than ever, but more on that in the next section.
Features score: 5/5
Garmin Forerunner 965: Performance
Accurate heart rate data
Superb running metrics
Useful VO2 data
The Garmin Forerunner 965 sounds fantastic when you look at the specs but did that actually translate into real-world performance experience? The short answer is yes. As you can expect from Garmin, the GPS accuracy was fantastic as was acquisition – in fact, this would find satellites and be ready to go in just a few seconds. This was tested all over the country, and in one rural area, it found GPS and was ready to go in just two seconds.
The only issue noticed was at the start of the Great North Run annual race, where my data was different to others running right next to me, but that could be down to their older watches versus this more accurate one.
Heart rate tracking was as impressive. When tested against a dedicated chest strap (Wahoo Tickr) it was found to keep up accurately, although, of course, there was a little more lag in sudden HR changes, since this is on your wrist not right by your heart. Even while swimming this offered excellent heart rate tracking which could actually be used thanks to that easy-to-glance-at display.
So a very accurate GPS and a reliable HR monitor all make for lots of data that can then be used with Garmin algorithms to work out more useful metrics. As such this watch offers Heart Rate Variability, so you can see how your actual cardiovascular fitness is changing as you train. There's a VO2 Max measurement to assess how well you can perform under strain.
Plus, you have acute load measured to assess the impact on your muscles as you work. All that means the watch will let you know when to rest, and what training you need (cardio versus weights, for example) so you get to where you need.
Battery life is also worth a mention as this offers a massive 23 days on standby, 31 hours in GPS mode, and 10.5 hours with GPS and music playing. All that translates to a charge very rarely, even if you train a lot. So you won't need to take a charger if going away for a race weekend, for example. Plus it charges ridiculously fast, up to a percentage a minute.
This could go on for thousands of words, such is the depth of this watch. But just to mention this model adds in running dynamics without the need for an extra sensor. So you can now check your vertical oscillation, cadence, stride length, ground contact time, and more to improve running in a really effective way. Sleep tracking worked relatively well although its accuracy wasn't always spot on, but enough so as to help track if you're recovered and ready to workout again.
You also get smartphone notifications for WhatsApp, calls, messages, emails, calendar, Ring doorbell, and plenty more to make it a smartwatch of sorts, only kept to a minimum so you're not too distracted from its primary use as a training tool.
Performance score: 5/5
Garmin Forerunner 965: Should I buy?
Buy it if...
Don't buy it if...
Garmin Forerunner 965: How we tested
We wore the Garmin Forerunner 965 on one wrist, connected to an Android device, for months. This came on half marathons, long bike rides, swims, surfs, walks, yoga classes, weights sessions, paddle boarding and more.
The contactless payment features and wireless offline Spotify were both used plenty as was sleep tracking, heart rate monitoring in cold water baths, notifications from the phone and more.
In short this was lived with 24/7 for months to truly test how you would use the watch, and all its features.
Garmin Forerunner 965: Also consider
First reviewed: October 2023