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Garmin Forerunner 265 review: Brilliant but far too expensive

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £430
inc VAT

The Garmin Forerunner 265 is a superb wearable, but the £130 price increase over the 255 makes it a very tough sell


  • Super accurate
  • Brilliant new AMOLED screen
  • Comfortable


  • A £130 price spike
  • No version without Music
  • Garmin Pay remains a weak spot in the UK

Time plays tricks on you, doesn’t it? It feels like mere months ago that I was lavishing praise upon the Forerunner 255 and now here’s the Garmin Forerunner 265. Sunrise, sunset.

Oh wait, that’s because it was. The Forerunner 255 came out in June last year, three years after the 245, and yet here’s a new model just nine months later. Some buyers are going to be irked, to put it mildly.

They needn’t be, for what it’s worth. The Garmin Forerunner 265 is a brilliant running watch, but it comes with a heavy and – in my view – unjustified price premium on what was already a pricey option. Indeed, even today you might be better off saving a few quid and opting for the Forerunner 255 instead, which can be had around the £269 mark if you shop around.

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Garmin Forerunner 265 review: What do you get for the money?

As you’d expect for such a short upgrade cycle – one that even Apple and Samsung would view as a bit quick – Garmin hasn’t exactly reinvented the wheel here. Which is fine: the Forerunner 2 series has always been excellent and the Forerunner 265 is no exception.

The main change is the screen technology, and it’s a biggy. The slightly dated, low-resolution (260 x 260, or 218 x 218 for the 255S) colour MIP screen has gone and been replaced with a pin-point sharp AMOLED number (416 x 416 for the 46mm version, or 360 x 360 for the 42mm model). This display also introduces touch control, although sticklers for physical buttons like me won’t be disappointed, as there are still five of those to play with.

More controversial is the simplification of the line: there’s no longer a “Music” model with onboard storage. Now both Forerunner 265 watches have 8GB of onboard storage, which is double the 4GB found on the “Music” models of the last generation. That should be objectively good, except there’s now no longer a cheaper option without storage for those who run with a phone.

Finally, Garmin has added a couple of new training features to what was already a very competitive model. Training Readiness is the big one: it combines sleep, recovery time, HRV status and stress into a single measurement and estimates how ready you are for a workout. On top of that, there’s on-wrist Running Dynamics, giving you information on nerdy stuff such as Vertical Ratio and Ground Contact Time without additional sensors. Nice, but not essential.

Garmin Forerunner 265 review: What do we like about it?

Frankly, we like almost everything about the Forerunner 265, although that shouldn’t be surprising as Garmin is building on a very solid base here. The new model still locks onto a GPS signal fast and accuracy is good. The heart-rate sensor works well, too, reading pretty close in our testing to measurements taken from a dedicated chest strap. And all the data is neatly collected in the Garmin Connect app which, for me, remains the gold standard for athletes who like to dig down into the nitty gritty.

The AMOLED screen is a huge improvement and it makes a running watch with historically utilitarian looks appear a lot more stylish; even the shocking pink model that Garmin sent me for review. In comparison, the display on my Forerunner 245 looks dull, washed out and grainy, even if it maintains (most of) the same fundamentals. The sharpness of the panel means you can fit up to six running metrics on a single screen for at-a-glance insights into how your run is going. It’s glorious.

The new fitness features are welcome, too, and they’re not coming to the Forerunner 255 via a firmware update either, so they’re another reason you might consider upgrading. Training Readiness is an excellent hand-me-down from the Forerunner 955. Not only does it tell you how ready you are for training on any given day, but it also tells you why, letting you scroll down and see what area you need to work on, be that sleep, recovery time, heart-rate variability or training load.

For me, though, on-wrist Running Dynamics is overkill. Some people will really like it but I imagine the types who really care will already have external sensors and, of course, the Forerunner 265 still supports those via ANT+ and Bluetooth.

As for battery life, there’s good and bad news, depending on the model you get. Garmin says the Forerunner 265S will give you 15 days of “smartwatch” battery life, up three days on the 255S, but the regular 265 offers only 13 days, a one-day decrease on the previous generation. It’s worth bearing in mind, too, that you’ll get less battery life with the 265 if you’re training heavily as GPS-only battery life is rated at 20 hours and 24 hours for the 265 and 265S respectively compared to 30 hours for the 255.

I was sent the Forerunner 265S model for review so I can only comment on that, and all I’ll say is it’s enormously impressive, capable of going for two weeks without a charge even with multiple 5K runs dotted throughout. I don’t know what voodoo Garmin has applied but the results are truly impressive. And, as a bonus point, the charging cable remains the Garmin standard, so if you’re already in the Garmin ecosystem, you shouldn’t ever have to scrabble around for a cable.

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Garmin Forerunner 265 review: What could it do better?

To Garmin’s credit, there’s not much to write here. Yes, the bezel could be thinner, but I only noticed that on the Weather screen – the other screens have a black background, which means the chunky frame isn’t as noticeable.

In terms of features, the SpO2 sensor continues to give fairly dubious readings. Compared with a dedicated finger-clip pulse oximeter, which gave a reading of 99%, the Forerunner 265S said my blood was 94% oxygenated but it’s not unusual in that sense. Most wearables give equally useless readings in my experience. Finally, Garmin Pay continues to be poorly supported in the UK, with just a handful of compatible banks.

All extremely minor complaints. No, the only real issue with the Forerunner 265 is its eyebrow-raising price.

When I reviewed the Forerunner 255, I put “still expensive” in the negatives column of an otherwise largely glowing review. Well, guess what? The follow-up is £130 more than that. The Forerunner 265 will set you back £430, whether you go for the 42mm or 46mm version.

True, Garmin has eliminated the option without built-in music, so the like-for-like generational increase is actually more like £80. But, for me, that’s still an unacceptable price hike, and enough to knock a whole star off an otherwise excellent wearable.

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Garmin Forerunner 265 review: Should you buy it?

If Garmin had kept the price comparable with the previous generation, this would be the easiest product recommendation I’’ve ever delivered. The Forerunner 265 is a superb watch and with the fancy AMOLED screen, it’s the most handsome model in the series to date.

But the truth is, when it comes to features, you’re not gaining much over the Forerunner 255, which can now be had for as little as £269.

And, if you just like the fancy screen and don’t need quite so many running bells and whistles, then the Garmin Venu 2 is great value at £299. The Venu 2 Plus is £349 at the time of writing, too.

The good news is that, with two 2xx-series updates arriving in quick succession, the chances are we’re a few years away from the 275 – and that means there’s plenty of time for the price to drop. When it does, you absolutely won’t regret making the Forerunner 265 your go-to running companion.

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