Garmin Forerunner 265 Review

A woman running with the Garmin Forerunner 265.

How much tech is too much tech? For some runners, having a lot of features on their running smartwatches can be overwhelming. Enter the Garmin Forerunner line.

The Garmin Forerunner has been the staple in the Garmin lineup for quite some time because it provides a balanced blend of advanced yet intuitive features. The Forerunner 265 is the latest version of the best selling Forerunner, featuring a new AMOLED touch screen and Garmin’s signature Training Readiness Score feature that the previous version lacked.

Fleet Feet reviewer, Caroline, put the Forerunner 265 to the test to see how it fared during her marathon training. Here’s what you need to know about the new Garmin Forerunner 265.

Tech Specs

Garmin Forerunner 265

Overall dimensions 46.1 x 46.1 x 12.9 (mm)
Weight 1.65 oz (47 g)
Display size 1.3 inches (32.5 mm) diameter
Waterproof rating 5 ATM
Battery life 13 days hours smartwatch-mode only, 20 hours GPS mode

Garmin Forerunner 265 hardware, battery life and sensors

A shot of the Garmin Forerunner 265 displaying the Training Readiness Score.

The Garmin Forerunner 265 looks premium right out of the box thanks to an AMOLED touch screen and a textured silicone band. The band is 22 millimeters and Garmin says fits wrist sizes from 135 to 205 millimeters. Caroline, who’s wrists measure 145 millimeters, buckled her watch on the fifth-smallest lug hole for a perfect fit.

“I would have preferred the 265S, which is the smaller size, but this one fits just fine,” Caroline says. “It wraps around my wrist perfectly and the silicone keeper is there to keep the extra material from flopping around.”

The Forerunner 265 is easy to set up out of the box, too. Just turn it on with the top left button, labeled “light,” and watch it power to life. You’ll answer a series of questions about your preferred language, gender, weight and height (in order to give accurate training insights), along with directions to pair your watch to your smartphone. Pairing your watch with your smartphone through the Garmin Connect app is critical if you want to make the most of your Garmin watch. We’ll get into more detail on that below.

The Forerunner 265 comes equipped with GPS, GLONASS and Galileo satellite systems, so you can track your runs no matter where you are. According to Garmin, using GPS combined with either GLONASS or Galileo systems can increase the accuracy and speed of GPS positioning, it can also wear down battery life quicker—something to keep in mind if you’re going to be trekking through an ultramarathon or an otherwise lengthy trip.

The Forerunner 265 boasts a battery life of 13 days if you’re using it solely as a smartwatch, that is, not using the GPS signal to run or walk. But what fun is that? Since we assume you want to make the most of your Forerunner 265 by taking it on a few adventures, be advised that it can last up to 20 hours in GPS-only mode and up to 7 hours with GPS and music (yes, that’s right, you can crank your favorite tunes from your Forerunner 265).

The watch also comes with battery-saving features. Although beautiful, the AMOLED touchscreen can drain battery life faster than the traditional digital screen of Forerunners past. For that reason, the watch face times out very quickly when you’re not actively using it to save battery life.

“I noticed that the watch face timed out much quicker than the Forerunner 55 that I was using before, but any time I flicked my wrist to look at my watch, it instantly came back to life,” Caroline says. “My Forerunner 55 supposedly has this technology too, but sometimes I’d have to literally shake my wrist back and forth to get it to light up–not so with the Forerunner 265.”

A piece of Corning Gorilla Glass, a brand of chemically strengthened glass, covers the digital display, which is locked in place by a fiber-reinforced polymer bezel.

The Forerunner 265 is jam-packed with sensors, too. In addition to the three GPS-tracking sensors, a wrist-based heart rate monitor is built into the back of the watch face. You can choose to have your data screen display this during a run or not.

“I never have my heart rate show during a run or a race because it freaks me out, but it’s definitely a helpful tool for those who are utilizing heart rate training,” Caroline says. “It also just gives you a general idea of when to pick it up or when to dial it back.”

Other sensors include a barometric altimeter sensor to measure altitude, a gyroscope to measure the orientation of the watch (remember how the watch face automatically lights up when you hold your wrist up?), a thermometer and a pulse ox blood oxygen saturation monitor. This measures the saturation of oxygen carried in your red blood cells. This helps you measure your blood oxygen level which can be useful if you’re training at altitude.

Garmin Forerunner 265 Features and Software

Runners run with their Garmin Forerunner 265 watches.

Now that we’ve gone over the technical aspects of the Forerunner 265, it's time to get down to the most important thing: How does it perform on the run?

The Forerunner 265 is brimming with features to help you make the most of your run. Music streaming capabilities can be paired with your watch so you can jam out to your favorite tunes.

The Body Battery energy monitor provides sleep monitoring capabilities and stress tracking. These features help you better understand your sleep patterns, how much recovery time you’ll need between workouts and how much stress you might experience in your day so you can avoid overtraining and burnout.

The biggest update to the Forerunner 265 is Garmin’s Training Readiness Score. This feature calculates your sleep, recovery time, heart rate and stress to analyze how prepared you are for a tough training session. It gives you a number between one and one hundred (one hundred meaning you are completely prepared to train).

“This was a pretty cool feature and a nice upgrade from my Forerunner 55,” Caroline says. “My Forerunner 55 only provides me with recovery time, for example, it might say I need 24 hours of easy effort or rest. The Training Readiness Score provides me with insight on how prepared I am to tackle a goal workout or long run in a more straightforward way.”

The Forerunner 265 is plenty versatile, too. It can tackle gym and fitness equipment, hiking, cycling and swimming in addition to running, making it easy to get your cross training in.

Garmin Forerunner 255 vs Garmin Forerunner 265

The Garmin Forerunner 265.

The main updates to the Forerunner 265 are the AMOLED display touchscreen, the Garmin Training Readiness score and the music capabilities. While the Forerunner 255 has music capabilities, they’re only available on the 255 Music watch, not the regular 255 model.

“The new touchscreen just gives this watch such a more luxurious feel,” Caroline says. “It’s almost like an Apple watch that’s actually good for running.”

While the AMOLED touchscreen is a premium feature, it does take a slight toll on the battery life. The battery life on the Forerunner 265 lasts for 13 days in smartwatch mode and 20 hours in GPS mode, compared to the 255 at 14 days in smartwatch mode and 30 hours in GPS model Nevertheless, the 265 still boasts an exceptional battery life that should easily last you through any run or race.

Who is the Garmin Forerunner 265 Best For?

The Garmin Forerunner 265 is loaded with features to enhance your training experience, making it ideal for data-conscious runners who want to work with their bodies to make the most of every run. And because it’s got multiple sport profiles to choose from, it’s also a great choice for triathletes or runners who are very serious about their cross training.

While the Forerunner 265 has plenty of features, it’s still easy and intuitive to use, making it a good choice for beginner runners searching for a premium running watch. However, if you’re looking for an entry-level running watch at a mid-level price point, you may want to check out the Forerunner 55 series.

“Running in this watch is super easy because the display features tell you everything you need to know in an easy-to-read way,” Caroline says. “When I was running, I could see my distance, current pace, time elapsed and heart rate on one screen while the lap distance, average lap pace and lap time were on the second screen. This setup worked well for me, but if you need to customize the display screens you can easily do that from the menu.”

The Forerunner 265 is available in two different sizes, the 265 and the 265S, with the S being the smaller of the two.

“While I would prefer the S sizing, the regular size fits my small wrists just fine,” Caroline says. “I was worried about it feeling bulky on the run, but the wristband holds it nice and snug against my wrist so I didn't even notice it.”

Don’t forget to download the Garmin Connect app and pair your new Forerunner 265 with your smartphone to make the most of your new running watch.

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