The recently released Garmin Forerunner 265 just may be the best new sports watch of the year that will appeal to both hardcore and casual runners. With features like downloadable music support, dual-band GPS, an extremely accurate heart rate sensor, and a brand new bright and colorful AMOLED display, Garmin has raised the standard once again.
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Garmin Forerunner 265 review: [Video]
Garmin Forerunner 265 design
The Garmin Forerunner 265 comes in two sizes. The standard version has a 46mm display, and a smaller version, named the the Forerunner 265s, has a slightly smaller 42mm display. The 265 is what I tested and is very light, coming in at just 47 grams. The silicone strap that is included has a nice two-color design and can be replaced with most other 22mm bands very easily.
The new bright and colorful AMOLED display is really the big standout here. This is easily the best looking display Garmin has ever released, brimming bright eye-catching colors used throughout all of the various widgets and menus. When compared side-by-side with the the Garmin Epix’s OLED display, it becomes even more obvious how big of an upgrade this is.
With this new display, I would have expected the battery life to suffer quite a bit. Fortunately, that is not the case here. Garmin says the Forerunner 265 can last up to 13 days with regular use and up to five days with the always-on display. After testing it for six weeks, I found the battery life to be even better than this. Typically, finding the battery going at least a day longer than Garmin’s estimates.
The one drawback to the design of the Garmin Forerunner 265 is its more limited durability and toughness. Garmin’s more expensive sports watches, like the Garmin Fenix 7, are built with stainless steel or titanium, and a sapphire lens. The lower priced Forerunner 265 is instead made from a plastic composite with a lens is made from Gorilla Glass. While this should still holdup with regular use, some may found this lower durability to be less desirable.
Garmin Forerunner 265 features
Like most mid-high end Garmin sports watches, the Forerunner 265 is packed full of various features. I cannot possibly cover every feature in this review, but there are some stand-outs I would like to mention.
First there is the Morning Report which displays on the watch when you wake up. This report highlights Garmin’s new Training Readiness Score which takes into account your sleep, Heart Rate Variability Tracking (HRV), training volume, resting heart rate and more. The report also shows you additional information and breakdowns for many of these metrics.
Sleep tracking and HRV accuracy is decent, but are not great as is the case currently with all Garmin sports watches. Sleep tracking seems to be a bit behind in accuracy compared to others like Apple Watch and Oura. The HRV tracking here is based on your average nightly score, which while useful to see long-term trends, is pretty worthless when it comes to helping you understand your recovery status day-to-day.
Another new feature that I really like is the Health Snapshot which takes two minutes and captures your current heart rate, blood oxygen, breathing rate, stress response, and HRV. If you use the Health Snapshot when you first wake up, it actually ends up giving a much more accurate and useful HRV score score.
Finally, another great addition to the Garmin Forerunner 265 is that you can download music and podcasts directly onto the watch itself. There are several services supported here, including Spotify, Amazon Music, and Deezer.
Garmin Forerunner 265 sports profiles
While the Garmin Forerunner 265 is primarily geared towards runners, it does offer a pretty large variety of sports profiles including biking, swimming, skiing, snowboarding, strength, yoga, and even breath work.
All of these sports profiles can be extensively customized on both the watch as well as the app. For each sports profile, you create different sets of data screens, of which there a ton of layouts and dozens (if not hundreds) of available metrics to choose from.
You can customize alerts for each sports profile to be notified if you hit a certain heart rate, pace, distance, or power output. You can also adjust the GPS type, auto lapse, enable or disable auto pause, and heart rate broadcasting. The list here goes on and on and on.
While the options here are mostly exhaustive, there are a few missing features which are reserved for Garmin’s more expensive sports watches. The most significant of which is maps and routing.
You can add routes and use navigation with the Forerunner 265, but instead of full map support, you will just see an outline of your route. There is no support here for maps to be able to see your surroundings or topography of the area. Because of this, you also cannot create routes on the fly or adjust routes as extensively as you could otherwise. So for the more adventurous trail runners or hikers, this may not be the best choice.
Garmin Forerunner 265 accuracy
In terms of heart rate and GPS accuracy, the Garmin Forerunner 265 is pretty close to as good as it gets.
I compared the heart rate tracking with a Polar H10 chest strap, and the 265 stayed accurate right alongside it at almost all times. When compared to other sports watches, like the Apple Watch, Polar, Coros, and even other Garmin watches, the 265 is one of the most accurate sports watches I have ever tested.
GPS tracking is equally great. With the dual band support on, I found the GPS tracking to be right on the money for almost every single run. Compared side by side to a wide variety of other sports watches, the 265 again matched or beat almost all of them.
The Garmin Forerunner 265 is simply a fantastic sports watch for most runners, and given its more modest cost, has a good shot at being the best new sports watch released in 2023.
While it may fall shy for runners who need maximal durability and full map support, the 265 is more than adequate for the average runner. With its incredible new AMOLED, deep customization options, and features like dual-band GPS and downloadable music support, I highly recommend it!
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