Garmin Forerunnner 965 Review: AMOLED Steals the Show
Last year I ditched my Apple Watch after strapping the Garmin Forerunner 955 to my wrist, enjoying the many fitness features that Garmin’s watch offers. Since then, I’ve tried a few other Garmin Watches, like the Enduro 2, but the 955 always ended up back on my wrist — until the Apple Watch Ultra came around. There’s a lot to like about both watch ecosystems, but one of the things that ended up bugging me about the Forerunner 955 was the display and how hard it could be at times to see in direct sunlight.
Earlier this month, Garmin announced the Forerunner 965, which builds on the features I loved in the 955 and brings a new AMOLED display along with it. That display is brighter and substantially more legible, and it makes Garmin’s new watch faces pop. It’s especially helpful for quick glances during my workouts.
Even though that display is a welcome improvement over last year’s model, tradeoffs in the watch’s battery life and the removal of the solar charging feature are worth noting for fans of previous Garmin watches. You’ll want to keep those differences in mind, but for many the enhanced display could be worth the changes.
The Forerunner 965 at $600 (£600, AU$999) is priced the same as last year’s Forerunner 955 Solar, but it doesn’t have the solar charging option. With the move to AMOLED, Garmin is not offering a solar charging variant of this year’s top of the line running watch, which is a definite bummer to me. I wore the watch all of last summer in great sunny conditions and it was nice to never worry about charging the watch — the sun was doing it for me.
While I would have loved to see solar charging in the current model, the improved display mostly makes up for it. I also appreciate that Garmin made the move to a lightweight titanium for the bezel. It not only makes the watch feel more premium, but look it as well.
Being able to see the AMOLED display in all conditions is a huge plus for me, but I don’t actually enjoy everything about the AMOLED and what it does for the watch. The biggest issue for me is the impact on the battery life. When you turn on the always-on display, you can get about six days of battery life, depending on how many activities you are tracking in that time and how many notifications you receive. That’s a huge difference from the advertised 23 days in smartwatch mode, which is only applicable when always-on is turned off.
While six days is still far better than any Apple Watch, it’s not nearly as great as most of the other Garmin models that I am used to using, making it feel a bit disappointing. For most, six days (with the screen always on) is going to be more than enough, especially since charging the watch is easy and only takes a little over an hour to complete.
Much like most other Garmin models these days, the Forerunner 965 features a touchscreen along with Garmin’s usual five-button navigation system. While convenient, I usually end up turning off the touch features because the watch is easy to navigate using the physical buttons. Disabling the touch features also helps prevent accidentally launching different functions. In the past, I’ve accidentally ended a workout while still out without realizing it because my shirt or something touched the display. You have the option to disable touch only while tracking workouts if you wish, or all the time.
On the fitness front, the Forerunner 965 brings some of Garmin’s most recent and best features, such as golf tracking support, real-time stamina, Strava Live segments support and more. Some of my favorite features from the 955 are still there, like the Morning Report summary providing training readiness for the day and the Race Day widget for keeping you on track for upcoming races. They just look even nicer with the new display. Garmin can suggest daily workouts to help you achieve your goals, and the training readiness feature brings together a few different metrics to help give you an overall score of how you should be feeling.
Overall, the Forerunner 965 keeps a lot of what people (myself included) loved about the previous Forerunner models and pairs it with a new display. As mentioned, there are some sacrifices to be made with the move to AMOLED, but none of them are dealbreakers. The Forerunner 965 is one of the best and nicest looking Garmin models on the market right now, and the new watch faces are simply stunning. Whether you’re training for a marathon or are ready to start taking fitness more seriously, you’re going to want to check one of these out.