Garmin Forerunner 965: A Powerful Upgrade for Running Watches

Read Time:15 Minute
Garmin Forerunner 965

The Garmin Forerunner series has long been a top choice for runners, cyclists, triathletes and fitness enthusiasts seeking an advanced GPS sports watch. Garmin recently announced the latest addition to the lineup – the Forerunner 965. This watch builds upon the very popular Forerunner 955 model from 2022 and includes some key upgrades that make it an intriguing option.

In particular, the Garmin Forerunner 965 adds an AMOLED display for brighter, more vibrant visuals along with improved resolution compared to the Forerunner 955. Battery life has also seen a boost in smartwatch mode, and Garmin has introduced new training load analytics like Training Load Ratio and Chronic Training Load to optimize workout analysis further.

With a starting price of $599, the Garmin Forerunner 965 is competitively priced against similar high-end offerings from brands like Polar, Coros and Suunto. It’s aimed at serious runners, triathletes and endurance athletes who want rich data insights and training optimization. The AMOLED display and onboard mapping also make it appealing for hikers and outdoor adventurers.

In this comprehensive hands-on review, we’ll take a deep dive into all the key specs and features of the Garmin Forerunner 965. We’ll compare how it stacks up to its predecessor to help you decide if upgrading is worthwhile. We’ll look at how it fits into the wearables landscape to determine if it’s the right sports watch for your needs and budget. Read on for the full scoop!

Display and Design of Garmin Forerunner 965

Vibrant AMOLED Display

One of the biggest upgrades on the Forerunner 965 is the display. Garmin has shifted from the MIP (memory-in-pixel) display used on the Forerunner 955 to a new 1.4” AMOLED touchscreen display. This provides significantly improved brightness, sharpness and vibrancy compared to past Forerunner models.

Increased Resolution and Pixel Density

With a resolution of 454 x 454 pixels, the Garmin Forerunner 965 display packs in far more detail than the Forerunner 955’s 260 x 260 pixel display. Icons, data screens and maps appear crisp and clear, and the touchscreen response is snappy. Even in direct sunlight, the display remains easy to read thanks to the brightness boost from AMOLED technology.

Brightness and Visibility

When viewing the Garmin Forerunner 965 next to the Forerunner 955, the difference is night and day. The Forerunner 965’s screen really pops with color side by side; the Forerunner 955 looks dull and dim. Garmin has optimized many of the watch faces and data screens to take advantage of the advanced display. Everything looks more vibrant on the wrist, from the user interface to activity data.

Physical Dimensions

Physically, the Garmin Forerunner 965 has almost the exact same dimensions as the Forerunner 955. The watch case measures 47.2mm diameter across and 13.2mm thick. Display-wise it gets a bump from 1.3” on the Forerunner 955 to 1.4” on the Forerunner 965. This extra screen real estate is welcome, though the bezels have been slimmed down to maintain the same overall footprint.

Weight and Comfort

At 53g, the Garmin Forerunner 965 weighs just a single gram more than the Forerunner 955. The lightweight build and the slimmer profile make it comfortable for all-day wear. An interchangeable silicone band comes standard, with dozens of Garmin QuickFit bands available to customize the look.


Durability has also been improved with the use of Corning Gorilla Glass 3 lens material versus Gorilla Glass DX on the Forerunner 955. The bezel is now made from titanium rather than plastic for added protection. Despite the upgrades, Garmin maintains the same 5ATM water rating for swimming and showering.

Stylish Yet Capable

Overall, the display and design changes may seem minor on paper, but they add up to a significantly more appealing aesthetic. The Forerunner 965 finally brings Garmin’s AMOLED and Firstbeat analytics prowess to the Forerunner lineup in a more extensive, bolder package.

Battery Life and Charging

Given the significant display upgrade on the Forerunner 965, many runners may worry about the impact on battery life. However, Garmin has optimized and tweaked the power management to maintain excellent longevity that largely keeps pace with the Forerunner 955.

In smartwatch mode with default settings, Garmin rates the Forerunner 965 battery life at up to 23 days, compared to 15 days on the Forerunner 955. This is impressive considering the vastly higher resolution AMOLED display. Enabling the always-on display feature reduces battery life to approximately 7 days based on early testing.

When utilizing the GPS sensor for outdoor runs or rides, the Garmin Forerunner 965 is rated for 31 hours in regular GPS mode and 19 hours in all systems/multi-band mode. Compared to the solar-powered Forerunner 955 which managed up to 49 hours, the Forerunner 965 takes a hit but still delivers enough juice for most training sessions and even full marathon or ultramarathon events.

Here’s a helpful comparison of the battery specs between the Forerunner 955 models and the new 965:

ModeForerunner 955Forerunner 955 SolarForerunner 965
Smartwatch Mode15 days20 days23 days
GPS Mode42 hours49 hours31 hours
All Systems GPS Mode20 hours22 hours19 hours
GPS + Music10.5 hours10.5 hours8.5 hours
All Systems GPS + Music20 hours22 hours19 hours

The Garmin Forerunner 965 uses a 300 mAh lithium-ion polymer battery compared to the Forerunner 955’s 270 mAh battery, so capacity has been increased slightly. Charging the watch from 10% to 100% takes about an hour via the included new USB-C cable (the watch clip is still Garmin’s standard proprietary connector).

Power management tweaks include switching off GPS during ultra distances when accuracy isn’t as critical, as well as optimizing exaggerated cutoff while waiting for a GPS signal. Users can further extend battery life by customizing data screens, disabling wrist heart rate when using a chest strap, and tweaking backlight settings.

While marathon or ultra runners may still prefer the Forerunner 955 Solar for its maximal GPS duration, the Forerunner 965 still delivers ample runtime for most users even in GPS mode. The improved battery efficiency is impressive given the substantial AMOLED display upgrade.

Health Tracking and Sleep Monitoring

In addition to its advanced training features, the Garmin Forerunner 965 includes extensive 24/7 health and wellness tracking capabilities. This allows users to understand better their overall health trends, fitness levels, and recovery needs.

Heart Rate Tracking

Forerunner 965 uses Garmin’s latest Elevate v4 optical heart rate sensor for all-day heart rate monitoring. This tracks your heart rate continuously in 1-second intervals throughout the day and during workouts using LED lights in the green spectrum. At night, it provides additional insights using red spectrum LEDs like heart rate variability (HRV) and respiration tracking while you sleep.

The Elevate v4 sensor uses multi-LED arrays and improved placement in the watch casing to enhance accuracy and reduce dropouts, especially during high intensity interval training. It’s one of the most accurate wrist-based heart rate sensors available today for consumer fitness watches.

Pulse Oximeter

The onboard pulse oximeter sensor lets you track your blood oxygen saturation (SpO2) levels during sleep or on-demand. This helps identify variations that may correlate with sleep apnea or altitude acclimation during high altitude hiking or climbing excursions.

The SpO2 sensor uses red and infrared light to estimate the percentage of hemoglobin in your blood saturated with oxygen, allowing you to see how well this vital gas is being circulated.

Female Health Tracking

Female health tracking is another helpful feature, allowing women to monitor their menstrual cycles, pregnancy, and detailed symptoms on the Forerunner 965. The watch detects hormonal cycle patterns and provides educational insights and tips for exercise during different phases. Observing trends over time can identify possible health issues.

Sleep Monitoring and Analysis

But where the Garmin Forerunner 965 really shines is its advanced sleep tracking and analysis capabilities. It automatically detects when you fall asleep and wake up based on heart rate fluctuations and movement. It then categorizes your sleep into different stages including light, deep, and REM sleep using heart rate variability signatures.

You get a detailed breakdown of your sleep stats each night and a sleep score from 0 to 100. The watch tracks metrics like total sleep time, time awake, breathing disturbances, blood oxygen levels, and heart rate variability during each sleep stage. All this data combines to provide a comprehensive look at your sleep quality.

The Garmin Forerunner 965 also calculates a ‘Training Readiness’ score each morning that estimates your body’s readiness to train hard based on the previous night’s sleep and recovery. This metric combines your sleep data with other factors like recent training load, stress levels, and heart rate variability status.

By surveying these biometrics 24/7, the Forerunner 965 gives athletes and health-focused consumers unmatched insights into how their body is functioning, recovering, and preparing for the next challenge.

Fitness Tracking and Sports Modes in Garmin Forerunner 965

As a high-end multisport GPS watch, the Forerunner 965 includes an extensive range of activity profiles and fitness tracking features. This makes it incredibly versatile for athletes across numerous disciplines.

For runners, the Garmin Forerunner 965 includes specific tracking modes for running, treadmill running, indoor track, trail running and ultrarunning. GPS accuracy is enhanced through multi-band support and new dual-frequency SatIQ technology for reliable tracking in challenging environments. Pace, distance, elevation and detailed run dynamics metrics are captured for post-run analysis.

Cyclists get dedicated modes for road biking, indoor cycling, mountain biking and e-biking. The Forerunner 965 is compatible with external sensors like bike speed, cadence, Varia radar and Shimano Di2. With these sensors connected, you get data like power (with a pedal or crank power meters), cycling dynamics for form analysis, ride timing and more.

Swimmers will appreciate the Garmin Forerunner 965’s pool swim mode with metrics like distance, pace, stroke count and SWOLF score. Open water swimming is also supported. And the watch is suitable for underwater use up to 50 meters depth.

Beyond the primary sports, the Garmin Forerunner 965 includes profiles for everything from elliptical training, yoga, and hiking to paddleboarding, cross country skiing, and backcountry snowboarding. In all, there are over 30 different sports modes:

  • Running
  • Cycling
  • Pool swimming
  • Open water swimming
  • Track running
  • Treadmill running
  • Hiking
  • Strength training
  • Cardio training
  • Indoor climbing
  • Golf
  • Pickleball
  • Pilates
  • Kayaking
  • Rowing
  • Indoor rowing
  • and many more

In addition, you can create customized sports profiles if one of your activities isn’t preset. Data pages, data fields, alerts and other settings can all be adapted to each sport. When it comes to customization, Garmin leads the industry.

For overall fitness tracking, the Garmin Forerunner 965 monitors your daily steps; distance traveled, calories burned, floors climbed and intensity minutes. Your measurements are synced with Garmin Connect for long-term progress monitoring.

With so many activity modes and options for customization, the Garmin Forerunner 965 is equipped to handle just about any training regimen or fitness goal you throw at it. And with onboard mapping, music storage and Garmin Pay, everything you need is right on your wrist.

Garmin Forerunner 965

Training Readiness and Load Focus

One of the most powerful new features introduced on the Garmin Forerunner 965 is Training Readiness. This provides a daily assessment of your body’s readiness to take on tough training based on multiple factors:

  • Sleep data: Your sleep duration, continuity, and restfulness as determined by sleep stages and HRV measurements overnight. Poor or inadequate sleep reduces readiness.
  • Recovery time: Based on your recent training load, the number of hours needed before completing another hard workout. More recovery time needed lowers readiness.
  • HRV status: Your current 7-day heart rate variability status versus your longer term HRV trends. Out of range lowers readiness.
  • Acute training load: Your training load over the past 7 days. Higher loads incur more fatigue.
  • Sleep history: Comparison of your last night’s sleep versus the previous two nights. Consistency improves readiness.
  • Stress history: Your recent stress levels are based on all-day heart rate data and pacing. Higher stress lowers readiness.

A single outlying metric won’t tank your Training Readiness score. The algorithm balances these inputs to provide an accurate picture of fatigue and recovery. You get a readout each morning of your score (0 to 100) and a breakdown of each contributing factor.

Training Readiness condenses recovery data into one intuitive metric so you can determine if your body is prepared for a tough workout or if you need an easier training day. This helps prevent overtraining while maximizing key sessions.

The Garmin Forerunner 965 also introduces two new Training Load metrics:

  • Acute Load: Your 7-day training load, weighted toward recent activities. Higher loads indicate greater strain and fatigue.
  • Chronic Load: Your 28-day training load, calculated by averaging 7-day Acute Loads. Represents longer term training levels.
  • Training Load Ratio: Divides Acute Load by Chronic Load. Between 0.8 and 1.5 is optimal. Helps balance training stress over time.

The Training Status page shows productive/unproductive alerts based on your load metrics and VO2 max trends. Load Focus tracks your low aerobic, high aerobic and anaerobic distribution over the past 4 weeks. Ensuring variety aids development.

By blending Training Readiness, Training Loads, and Load Focus, the Forerunner 965 provides unmatched insights into managing fatigue, injury risk, and training effectiveness for breakthrough performance.

Navigation and Mapping in Garmin Forerunner 965

Detailed Topographic Maps

One of the signature features of the Garmin Forerunner 965 is its full-color onboard mapping for outdoor adventures. The watch comes preloaded with topographic and trendline popularity maps for your current region, with free downloads available for additional map areas.

Route Planning and Navigation

The built-in routable maps allow you to upload GPX courses or create new routes on the watch itself. During an activity, you simply select your desired course and the Forerunner 965 will provide turn-by-turn directions guiding you along the path. Cue distances auto-adjust based on your speed.

Visible Display

You can pan and zoom into the full-screen map using the touchscreen or buttons when navigating. Zoom levels range from 30 miles down to 40 feet for precision. The higher resolution AMOLED display on the Forerunner 965 makes maps look sharp and highly visible even in direct sunlight.

Additional Navigation Features

Other helpful navigation features include back-to-start routing, TracBack retracing, ClimbPro ascent data, roundtrip creator, Trendline popularity routing, and off-course warnings. With 32GB storage, you get ample room for map downloads and activity recordings.

Enhanced Positioning Sensors

The built-in sensors further enhance navigation. Along with GPS/Galileo/Glonass, the Forerunner 965 supports multi-band frequencies for increased accuracy under tree cover or in urban canyons. The compass, gyroscope, accelerometer and barometric altimeter also pitch in for precise positioning.

Outdoor Activity Modes

For hikers and trail runners, additional tools like Ultratrac battery mode, backcountry ski maps, ClimbPro and Trail Run Auto Climb make navigating wilderness significantly easier. Waypoints can also be saved for marking campsites or other points of interest.

Convenience On Your Wrist

While serious navigators may still prefer a dedicated handheld GPS device, the Garmin Forerunner 965 provides more than enough mapping capabilities for most training, races, and off-the-grid adventures. And it retains all of its advanced training metrics and connectivity when in GPS mode. No need for a secondary device.

Garmin Forerunner 965

Smartwatch Connectivity and Additional Features

Smartphone Notifications

Although designed for sports and outdoors, the Garmin Forerunner 965 also offers handy smartwatch connectivity when not training. You can enable smartphone notifications from your iPhone or Android device to receive alerts and texts on your wrist. This allows you to glance at messages without pulling out your phone.

Music Storage and Controls

The Garmin Forerunner 965 has onboard storage for music, with support for downloading playlists and albums from Spotify, Deezer, and Amazon Music. This gives you phone-free listening by connecting Bluetooth headphones. You can control music playback directly on the watch.

Contactless Payments

Garmin Pay allows you to make secure contactless payments using your Forerunner 965. After entering your credit or debit card details, you can tap to pay at any NFC payment terminal. A passcode ensures security.

Safety and Tracking Features

Incident detection and Livetrack allow sharing your real-time location with chosen contacts for safety. With your paired phone nearby, you can trigger assistance alerts manually or automatically if the watch detects a potential mishap during activities.

Connectivity Specs

From a connectivity standpoint, the Garmin Forerunner 965 includes WiFi, Bluetooth, and ANT+ for syncing data to your phone and connecting external sensors. The watch is compatible with Android and iOS smartphones.


You can customize the Garmin Forerunner 965 through free watch faces, apps, and data fields from the Connect IQ store. Switch up the look and add functionality like nesting menus, alternate run displays, and more.

Daily Usage

The Garmin Forerunner 965 offers everything you need right on your wrist for daily use. Along with the time and calendar, it provides weather forecasts, alarms, timers, a stopwatch, sunrise/sunset data, and adjustable display brightness.


A Thoughtful Upgrade for Serious Athletes

The Garmin Forerunner 965 represents a thoughtful upgrade over the highly popular Forerunner 955, with improvements that make a real impact on athletes. The AMOLED display, longer battery life, onboard running dynamics, and new training load analytics provide meaningful benefits for hardcore runners and triathletes.

Justifies the Price Premium

At $599, the Garmin Forerunner 965 costs $100 more than the Forerunner 955. However, the display, battery and feature upgrades make this premium worthwhile for serious competitors seeking every edge. Less hardcore athletes may still prefer the Forerunner 955 based on budget.

Leads the Multisport GPS Watch Category

When it comes to advanced metrics, navigation, battery life and ruggedness, the Forerunner 965 remains at the head of the pack for multisport GPS watches. Competitors like the Polar Pacer Pro or Coros Vertix 2 still fall slightly short of this complete package.

Room for Further Improvements

While highly capable, there is still room for improvement on the Forerunner 965. Adding LTE connectivity, a touchscreen UI overhaul, a flashlight, and solar charging would make nice future upgrades. But as is, the watch still impresses across the board.

The Ultimate Training Partner

For athletes obsessed with analyzing their performance and maximizing training, the Garmin Forerunner 965 delivers the metrics, insights, battery life and quality construction to fulfill this purpose. While costly, it’s the ultimate training partner and comes highly recommended.

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